Incorrect Crutch Use - A Primer

Incorrect crutch use just plain hurts.

Granted, if you're not able to put weight on a leg, it's challenging enough. But please don't add to it by doing something like the person in the photo is.

This is what I see in this photo of "how to use crutches wrong":

  • A. The crutches are not only pressing into the armpits, but they're slipping forward. When you lean on the upper (axillary, for armpit) pads it puts increased pressure on a large nerve and blood vessel bundle that supplies your arm. Keep doing this, and your arm starts to tingle and get weak. With the upper pads not held tightly against your body, and slipping forward, when you push down on the crutch it could quickly shoot out from your armpit. This incorrect crutch use leads to a very unexpected loss of balance.
  • B. I have not idea what she is looking at, but in order to use crutches safely, you really need to be looking ahead about 5' to 6' at the floor or ground. This lets you also use your peripheral vision to see adequately what is coming to your sides.
  • C. Oh, the posture with this incorrect crutch use! I've seen it (and done it) before, and it usually comes from being too tired, being in pain or both. It's the "slumping on the arm pads, letting my chin stick out, getting round in the shoulders and sticking my butt out" posture. None of this is good, and it makes you work much harder, get tired faster and not ever want to use crutches again. Take a seat, get some rest and see if you can get some help.
  • D. It could be because she is leaning on the arm pads, and tired, but your elbows should not be bent this much. When you are using crutches wrong like this, your arms (specifically, triceps) can't push down effectively and you use your shoulders to do the work. And your wrists have to grip much tighter on the hand pads to keep the crutches from slipping out. It becomes even more tiring. Now, if your crutches were fitted this way, you know that they don't feel right, with your arms bent that much. It's time to get them checked for correct fitting. There may even be instructions that came along with the crutches which can help you fit them correctly.
  • E. This is not a comfortable position to hold your hip and knee in; they'll feel like they are going to cramp, faster than you might think. Relax that leg a bit (although, she may be concerned about banging her left toes as she moves-see #F), or you can even keep your leg out in front of you with your foot slightly off of the ground. I've also found that this can help make your balance feel a bit more sturdy.
  • F. This is the part of incorrect crutch use that just screamed at me when I saw the photo. Please wear supportive footwear; flip flops, sandals, shoes with heels, worn-out house slippers and running shoes without laces are not adequate.

Remember, you're only balancing on one foot, and 2 tips (if you can't put weight on your other foot) and your good foot needs a solid foundation to work from. Wear correct shoes, please.

Your toes need to be protected, also, for those times when your knee cramps (if your leg is bent up as it is in the photo) and your toes hit the pavement!

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