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How to Use Crutches

Crutches are wood or metal supports that help you walk after injury or surgery to the hip, leg, knee, or foot. Good fit and safe use of crutches helps you walk without putting stress on your leg. Proper crutch fit also helps protect your arms and hands.

What You Will Need

  • A pair of crutches that are the right size for your height
  • Training in safe use, such as standing, sitting, and walking on surfaces and stairs

Steps to Take

How to Fit Crutches

  1. How To Use Crutches_1 Stand tall and relaxed. Wear walking shoes with low heels. Put the crutches against your ribs under your arms.
  2. How To Use Crutches_2 The top of your crutches should be 1 to 2 inches below your armpit. Put your hands on the hand grips level with your hip. Your elbows should be slightly bent at about 20 degrees.
  3. Your weight should be on your hands and not on the underarm pads of the crutches.

How to Sit Down Using Crutches

  1. How To Use Crutches_1_sit Hold the hand grips of both crutches in one hand, usually the side of your injured leg.
  2. How To Use Crutches_2_sit Use your other hand to hold onto the arms of a chair and sit down slowly.
  3. Keep your injured leg forward and use your strong leg to help lower your body to the chair.

How to Get Up From a Chair Using Crutches

  1. How To Use Crutches_3_stand Hold the hand grips of both crutches on the side of your injured leg. Push yourself up using one arm on the chair and by pushing down on the crutches.
  2. How to Use Crutches_stand_2 Stand up by straightening your strong leg.
  3. After you stand, place one crutch under each arm.

How to Walk Using Crutches

  1. There are a few walking styles for crutches. Typically, you move your crutches forward a short distance keeping them wider than your body so you do not trip on them.
  2. How to Use Crutches\JPG\Crutches_Walk_3.jpgHow To Use Crutches_2_walk Move your injured or weak leg forward, push down on the hand grips of the crutch handles, and then bring your strong leg forward. Only put as much weight on your injured leg as you have been told by your doctor. Another walking style is to swing through on the strong leg without putting the injured leg on the ground.

How to Walk Up and Down Stairs

  1. How To Use Crutches_walkup When you walk up stairs, step up with your strong leg and follow with the injured leg and the crutches. Take one step at a time.
  2. How to Use Crutches\JPG\Crutches_Walk_Down1.jpgHow to Use Crutches\JPG\Crutches_Walk_Down2.jpg When you walk down stairs, first lower the crutches down to the step making sure they are in the middle of the step. Then move the injured leg followed by the strong leg.
  3. Move slowly and carefully. A good tip is to go up with the good leg and down with the bad leg.

Common Questions

Q. How can you use crutches in the safest way?

A. Keep your home free of scatter rugs, electrical cords, and clutter. You should also watch for small pets and children. Use care when you walk on uneven, wet, or slippery surfaces and avoid ice and snow. Use an apron or small pack to carry things.

Q. What if my hands or arms get sore?

A. Stand straight and use your arms to support your weight. Leaning on the underarm pads can cause hand or arm numbness. Extra padding on the hand grips can make your hands feel better.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you:

  • Have arm or hand numbness
  • Cannot walk because your leg is painful and swollen
  • Have a fall
RESOURCES:

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://whenithurtstomove.org

REFERENCES:

Crutches: fitting and teaching crutch walking. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated June 8, 2018. Accessed February 27, 2020.

How to use crutches, canes, and walkers. Ortho Info—American Academy or Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00181. Updated February 2015. Accessed February 27, 2020.

Instructions for using crutches. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons Foot Health Facts website. Available at: http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/crutches.htm?terms=crutches. Accessed February 27, 2020.

Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS  Last Updated: 2/27/2020