Injuries that require a walking aid, specifically upper and lower leg injuries, will often be met with a feeling of dread that far exceeds the pain of the injury itself. Walking aids such as underarm crutches are restrictive, cumbersome, unstable, and often can cause more day-to-day pain than the actual injury itself. The safety of your crutches should be your first concern, comfort the second. Don't worry though! It is possible to have both safety and comfort during your non-weight bearing tenure! Read on for helpful hints and tips to not just survive on crutches, but to thrive during your non-weight bearing rehabilitation.
OPTION 1: STANDARD CRUTCHES
Redecorate for a Crutch-Friendly Home:
Those who have a planned surgery have a slight advantage over those suffering from an unexpected injury that necessitates crutches. Regardless of the cause for your injury, this tip is worth its weight in time and ease. Ensure there are easy pathways for you to navigate with your underarm crutches around rooms that you occupy most often, like the bedroom, living room, and if possible, the kitchen. Pesky rugs, cords, or any other objects that could create unnecessary difficulties and danger should be immediately moved out of the way or removed entirely during your tenure on crutches.
How your Family is Impacted by Crutches:
Living with young children or pets can become a particularly unpredictable hazard while you are regulated to underarm crutches. It is important to sit any young children down and explain the potential dangers of getting in your way when you are navigating with crutches, both in the house and when they are with you outside of the home. Establishing a new set of “Injury Rules” during your rehabilitation on crutches is a good idea, as is doling out small rewards to appreciate any especially thoughtful actions.
Pets and children that are too young to understand basic rules regarding your crutches, and the difficulties you will experience during your time on crutches, pose another problem. It may be wise to allot specific, sectioned off floor space for very young children or pets during the time you are on crutches.
Caring for Furry Friends While on Crutches:
Caring for your Fido or feline can be far more difficult to manage while on crutches. Banal tasks like emptying the litter box will be increasingly difficult to manage, and even chores or activities you may have enjoyed pre-crutches, will quickly morph into a major pain (especially for your underarms) simply due to the common side-effects of crutches. Walking the dog for instance, may be a chore you will need to delegate to another member of your household, a friend, or even a hired dog walker during your tenure on standard crutches.
Crutches are not a Walking Stick:
Crutches are not to be used to help you sit down or stand up. Use a more stable object to help hoist yourself to or from your feet. Good examples of the proper support would be any stable table, chair, wall, or even a person (assuming you trust their ability to assist you).
Using Crutches on Stairs:
Always lead with your uninjured foot while going up. The opposite is true when going down stairs, during which it is advisable to always lead with your injured foot. Hold on to the rail, and make sure your crutches are on the same step as your injury at all times. More detailed information on using crutches on stairs can be found on our earlier blog post on the subject.
Carry-All While on Crutches:
When using conventional axillary crutches, it may be wise to pack up a backpack or messenger bag that can easily sling across your body for easy access to important items. Axillary crutches severely restrict your mobility, and it is a good idea to store your wallet, keys, a water bottle, and any other items you typically require during the day in your bag of choice. Always being prepared while you are on crutches can save a good deal of emotional and physical discomfort.
Avoid Unnecessary Danger on Crutches:
This should go without saying, but it can be surprising how long it may take to get used to avoiding what many would consider everyday situations, even when in the unordinary situation of being stuck on underarm crutches. As obvious as it may sound, it is important to remember that your crutches are not your feet. Slick floors, icy stairs, and uneven sidewalks morph from being a mere inconvenience to a much more sinister obstacle when you are on underarm crutches, and you should always approach uneven situations on crutches with caution and care.
Online Life Support While on Crutches:
If you are the main (or only, if you live independently) person that takes care of the household shopping, it may be wise to look into some temporary online shopping options. Online grocery stores and drugstores will quickly become a lifesaver during your rehabilitation on crutches. Shopping trips on conventional crutches can be a frustrating and time consuming ordeal; underarm crutches make it difficult to push the cart, grab certain items, and cart your wares from store-to-car and car-to-kitchen. You will have to drop some extra cash for delivery, but you may find the money you spend on deliviery is worth its weight in gold due to the the time and frustration you save by not attempting to shop on axillary crutches.
This may sound like an odd concern to have while on crutches, but if you have chosen to use standard axillary crutches, caring for the delicate and easily irritated skin under your arms will quickly become a primary concern. Switch to an all-natural deodorant (or better yet, go au natural for a few days) so that you don’t expose your raw and blistered underarms to harsh and irritating chemicals.
Begin treating the underarm area before it becomes a painful problem, by applying a substance like petroleum jelly to your underarms. This over the counter staple does double duty by decreasing the friction between your skin and your crutches that causes the chafing, and also by helping to heal previously chafed and burned skin. Think of your crutches like a very painful pair of new shoes – you need to break them in slowly, or you will end up with blisters. If your lifestyle pace does not allow you to slowly acclimate your underarms to your crutches, it may be advisable to obtain an antibiotic cream or lotion from your physician to treat underarm burns and any infection the crutch chafing may cause. Those who do not have the time or energy necessary for dealing with this unfortunate side-effect of standard crutches may find it is best to look into hands-free crutch alternatives like the iWalk-Free that do not carry any risk of chafing or infecting the skin.
Learn to Fall Properly on Axillary Crutches:
This may sound like tempting fate, but knowing the proper way to fall with your crutches can help you avoid any serious re-injury. Falling while using standard underarm or forearm crutches is a common complaint from crutch users, and it is very important that this tip is taken seriously. The key to falling gracefully is to always remember that you want your arms to break your fall, not your crutches. Toss your crutches to the side, and try as best you can to evenly distribute the falling weight on both arms in order to spread the shock of the fall over a larger surface area. With any luck, this will help you avoid any further injury to your body.
OPTION 2: KNEE SCOOTERS
Many may find it surprising that there are alternatives to crutches that can provide a much wider range of mobility and comfort than found with conventional underarm crutches. If you cannot bear the idea of being regulated to underarm axillary crutches for any given amount of time, it may be wise to begin researching other mobility device options.
Individuals in need of a temporary mobility aid, who spend a good deal of time at home, have hard flooring in their home, and are not burdened withany stairs or multi-level floor plans, may find that a knee scooter is the appropriate crutch alternative for their situation. Knee scooters are best for short distances on completely even, ridge free, and hard surfaces. Knee scooters are not appropriate for those who have a home with carpeting or hard but uneven flooring (like tile or wooden floorboards).
Knee scooters or other rolling devices are more comfortable but less functional then conventional crutches, and may not be appropriate for standard use outside of the home. Maneuvering around tight spaces inside the home can be equally hard to accomplish. Even high end knee scooters are large and bulky, and most knee scooters have a very imprecise turning radius. Outdoor surfaces tend to be highly variable and can pose difficulties and dangers for knee scooter users as well, so unless you are retired, on medical leave, or work almost exclusively from home, a rolling device may not be the best option for your particular lifestyle.
OPTION 3: KNEE CRUTCHES
There are many crutch alternatives on the market, and one in particular is the industries best kept secret. The iWalk-Free is FDA approved, but it is relatively new to the US market, so there is a good chance neither you (or your doctor) knows about it. Yet. The iWalk combines the walking and multi-surface abilities of standard crutches with the comfort and ease of rollling knee scooters into a revolutionary peg-leg crutch. If you read the above paragraphs with a growing sense of dread at the difficulties you may face on standard crutches, or if your job or daily life absolutely requires use of your hands (for example restaurant waiters, teachers, child care workers, or those who perform manual labor) hands-free crutch alternatives like the iWalk-Free can provide an unparalleled level of freedom during lower leg injury rehabilitation.
Any patients who need to remain non-weight bearing and who want to maintain their typical lifestyle by going to work, taking care of the shopping, or walking the dog, the best option may be the iWalk crutch. This clinically proven crutch alternative enables a wider range of mobility than underarm crutches, forearm crutches or knee scooters, as there are very few (if any) restrictions on where and when you can use the iWalk. The iWalk is appropriate for patients of all different ability levels, even those patients that are inactive and not athletically gifted. However, for patients who do enjoy a lively outdoor or active lifestyle, the iWalk is the only mobility device that can enable these patients to rehabilitate their lower leg without drastically modifying their everyday lifestyle.
Hopefully this article has provided some useful information, and your non-weight bearing lifestyle seems a bit more manageable than it may have before. We strive to provide the highest quality educational and informational information to our readers. That being said, please be aware that we are not doctors, and we always recommend that you speak with your health care practitioner about your treatment and lifestyle options during rehabilitation, before initiating any drastic changes. If you have any questions, complaints, compliments, or comments about our article let us know! We would love to hear from you!
“Crutch Walking.” Health Encyclopedia. University of Rochester Medical Center. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
“Crutches.” Health Information. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. http://healthlibrary.brighamandwomens.org/HealthCenters/Orthopaedic/90,P02754
Poinier, Anne. “Using Crutches.” Healthwise. eMedicineHealth Medical Reference, 8 April, 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/using_crutches-health/article_em.htm
“Using Crutches.” Healthwise. Web MD Medical Reference, 8 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/using-crutches-topic-overview