Using Crutches

Crutches are so simple to use or are they?

Everyone has different body proportions requiring a slightly different setup of their crutches. Your physical therapist can assist with optimizing your crutches for your unique situation. This will ensure appropriate use with the correct gait pattern. Correct usage of crutches may decrease energy expenditure, decrease risk of falls, decrease pain from the injury, and decrease under arm pain. If you feel unsure about using crutches post-operatively stop into one of the Atlantic Physical Therapy clinics to learn how to use crutches prior to surgery.

Guidelines for sizing crutches:
1. While standing up straight the top of your crutches should be about 2-3 fingers width below your armpit (about 1.5 inches).
2. Position the hangrips at your hips height, which should allow about a 20 degree elbow bend.

Using your crutches:
You’ll want to hold the top of the crutches against your sides and use your hands absorb your weight. This will ensure that not too much pressure is being pressed under your arm pits. Excessive pressure under the armpits may cause a nerve injury.

Gait Patterns with Crutches:
1. Crutches partial weight bearing: Choose the least painful of the following
2. Crutches 2 Points of contact: one crutch and opposite extremity move together followed by the opposite crutch and extremity; this allows for a more natural arm and leg motion while providing good support and stability.
3. Crutches 3 Points of contact: both crutches and involved leg are advanced together, then uninvolved leg is advanced forward; indicated when there is only a single limb involved
4. Crutches 4 Points of contact: a slow gait pattern in which one crutch is advanced forward and placed on the floor, followed by advancement of the opposite leg; then the remaining crutch is advanced forward followed by the opposite remaining leg. This provides maximum stability with three points of support while one limb is moving.
5. Swing through pattern: both crutches move forward then uninvolved limb. The involved limb does not touch the floor. This provides minimal support, but allows non weight bearing of the affected limb.

Adam Jones, PT

Atlantic Physical Therapy

Millsboro, DE