Fitting Crutches Correctly

This page describes the how-to of fitting crutches, whether they are axillary or Lofstrand, so that they are comfortable and the correct size for your body dimensions.

If you haven't seen how to use crutches incorrectly, I'd recommend it to get some idea of how crutches look when they are not sized for you.

In order to use crutches correctly, you need to start with correct fitting. When not fit to your body dimensions correctly, crutches feel more awkward, more difficult to use, painful to your underarms and hands and make you not want to use them.

Fitting Crutches-Axillary

There are 2 common areas to adjust - the leg extensions and the hand grips. The leg extensions are adjusted first in order to fit the crutches; why? It changes the overall length of the crutches, which means, ultimately, where the axillary pads are compared to your armpits.

correct fitting crutches

This shows how things should look when you have properly fitting crutches.

They are adjusted so that the axillary (underarm) pads are 2-3 finger widths away from your underarms.

The hand grips are positioned so that the elbows have about a 30 degree bend in them.

If the crutches are too long, the pads will cause chaffing and rubbing on your skin. And you won't be able to use your shoulders and arms (specifically, triceps) muscles effectively. You'll be uncomfortable and tired.

This, also, keeps the crutches from pressing into the underarm area and causing compression of a large bundle of nerves and the blood vessels that supply your arms. That's essentially it!

Wing nuts are unscrewed from the bolts, and the bolts taken completely out of the leg extensions. The extensions are moved up or down to the correct hole settings for your height, or to give you that 2 to 3 finger width between the axillary pads and your underarms when the crutch tips are positioned about 6" to the sides of your feet, and about 2" to 3" in front of your feet. Then the bolts are inserted and the wing nuts tightened to finger pressure.

Push pins are squeezed into the holes and the tube is rotated slightly; move the leg extension up or down for the correct fit, then rotate the tube until thepush pin matches the hole and you hear it 'click' into place. Put some weight on the crutch, to make sure the pin(s) has seated correctly.

Infrequently, you'll find an adjustable clip pin that has to be pulled out in order to adjust the lower tube on aluminum crutches.

The hand grips are adjusted by either wing nuts and bolts or euro-style tabs on aluminum crutches, or wing nuts and bolts on wooden crutches. The grips are positioned so that your elbows are bent about 30°, or to the point where the creases of your wrists are at the level of your hip joints. crutch gel hand grips

euro-style clipsEuro-style tabs are pulled out as far as they can be (they don't come off of the hand grip, so don't try to pull it off) usually until you feel a faint 'click'. Move the grip up or down to the correct hole setting, and then push the tabs back in. Do the same with the other crutch.

Fitting Crutches-Lofstrand

Loftrand crutchesThere are several ways of fitting crutches of the Lofstrand (aka Canadian or forearm) style. In both cases, the person should be standing with the shoes they will most frequently be wearing.

The adjustment is done by either: pushing in the push pins while rotating the tubing slightly and moving the tube up or down to let the pins click into the correct hole for the needed length of the crutch, or pulling out the clip pins and moving the tube up/down to the correct height and then pushing the pins back in.

The shaft of the crutch is adjusted first; when the height of the crutch is correct, there is about a 30 degree bend in the elbow when the palm of the person's hand rests on the handle.

The other way to fit the crutch is to ask the person to flex their elbow so the crease of their wrist is level with their hip joint. The crutch handle should then be adjusted so that it comes up to their hand at this point.

The forearm cuff is adjusted (again, using either push pins or a clip pin) so that it is 1" to 1 1/2" below the elbow. There are references online that indicate that the forearm cuff can be adjusted to a person's comfort and preference up to 3" below the elbow, though.

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Updated 6-4-2012

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