So I have been on crutches now for about four months. In those 4 months I have have had a few mishaps and a few victories. I am going to share some do’s and don’ts of using crutches that I have oh so eloquently learned over the last few months. Now I am not the most graceful of people to begin with so stick me on crutches and there is bound to be issues. Also, I am referring to auxiliary crutches as in the image above not elbow (forearm) crutches so keep that in mind.
- 1) Don’t go by the height on the crutches, have them properly fitted to you by a trained physiotherapist or at the very least watch some videos on how to properly fit crutches. My first set of crutches I had in the beginning were youth crutches. As I am only 5 foot and half an inch (yes that 1/2 inch matters) I assumed that youth crutches that go to 5 foot 2 inches would be the right size and that adult crutches that start at 5 foot 2 inches would be too big. I was wrong. If I go by the 2 finger rule (the top of the crutches should be about 2 finger widths below the armpit) then I am actually setting it to 5 foot 3 inches.
- 2) Do learn how to properly go up and down stairs. Good foot up, bad foot down. If your hands are big enough (mine aren’t) place both crutches under one arm and use the railing with the other arm or hand one crutch to someone else. It’s best to have someone with you until you get the hang of it. When going up stairs leave your crutches on the current step and bring your good foot up to the step above, push up with your good foot bringing your bad foot and the crutches with you to the next step (that your good foot is already on). When going down leaning forward but looking straight not down (so you don’t loose balance and fall which I did more then once) bring your crutches and bad foot down to the step below and “hop” down to the step holding onto the railing or using your crutch. This is harder then it sounds. I could not do it and had to put some weight (as much as I could bear through my bad foot to be able to get down). I will be honest because my hands are so small I had to have each crutch separate under each arm and hold onto the railing with one. It took a bit of juggling and a few close calls to get the hang of it. YouTube has some great instructional videos.
- 3) Don’t walk any more then is necessary and use other means of getting around if you can such as a wheelchair or chair on wheels if you are going to be on them for a long time. It might be tempting at first and sort of a novelty using the crutches. I remember as a kid thinking it was cool but especially if you have a little extra weight or are not in the greatest shape like me you need to conserve your energy, you are going to need it for times when you need to go somewhere and need to use the crutches. Lots of stores have wheelchairs or scooters you can borrow to get around.
- 4) Do consider asking your doctor or local department of motor vehicles if a temporary handicap parking permit can be obtained. This will help if you need to go somewhere like a doctors appointment or pharmacy or store and the parking lot is full so that you don’t have to walk as far on crutches. Some people might disagree with this but for me there is no way that I would be able to go anywhere without it, including back to work. It’s okay to need a little help now and then.
- 5) Do consider padding the handles and possibly arm rests (is that what they are called?). However don’t just duct tape tea towels/face clothes around them. Extra padding is great if it was made for the crutches. I used these crutch covers from Drive Medical that were made for my crutches which I bought at Wal-mart. Taping tea towels/face clothes can actually be dangerous. It can put more pressure on your armpits or your hands could slip off the hand grips causing injury.
- 6) Don’t skimp on quality. It might be tempting to purchase the cheapest pair you can find however make sure to consider how heavy they are, how sturdy they are (can they hold your weight). You can still buy wooden ones but out of the crutches I have used over the years I find light weigh aluminum to be the best. If you have the option of forearm crutches ask your doctor or physiotherapist if they may be better for you. I have never used them but have heard that they require even more arm strength then the auxiliary kind.
- 7) Do feel free to decorate them. If you are going to be on them for a bit have fun with them! If you have a cast decorate it too if you want! Check out Pinterest and YouTube for some great ideas and tutorials. I never did this and kind of regret it but kind of don’t.
Well that’s all I have. I am sure I missed a few things. Crutches don’t have to be cumbersome and depressing. Have a little fun, but be safe.