Whether they are to support a long-term disability or a short-term healing process, the impact a simple pair of crutches can make should not be underestimated. They allow people to remain active, they aid rehabilitation and they ensure people retain their independence despite the immobility problems they are suffering with. However, far too many people are using these simplest of walking aids incorrectly, and doing so can lead to the exacerbation of injuries and the development of new problems. Using them is relatively easy, but there are a few basic factors to consider if problems are to be avoided.
Adapting Crutches to the User’s Needs
Most designs allow people to adjust the dimensions to fit their own body shape and size. The user should begin by checking that each crutch is at the correct height; the gap between the user’s armpits and each crutch should be between one and two inches. Each hand grip should be more or less level with the hips, but users should try not to put their weight onto their armpits, as this can become painful over time. Each crutch should be kept close to the body, and the hands should be taking the strain.
The user should be leaning forward slightly when walking. Each step forward should begin by placing each crutch around a foot in front of the feet. The user should then move forward in one smooth motion whilst making sure each crutch is taking the weight. The healthy limb should always take the weight, and the immobile limb should not be taking any weight at all. Users should be wary of their surroundings when they first start using these vital mobility aids, as more room is required when moving. It is also vital that the route is checked for obstructions before a journey commences, as the user should have their head up and their eyes looking straight ahead whilst walking.
Using Stairs Safely
Walking around is relatively easy after a little practice, yet climbing and descending stairs is another matter altogether. If the stairs in question don’t have a handrail, the user should lead an ascent with the good leg. Users should move within a couple of inches of the first step, place their weight on each crutch and transfer their good leg to the first step. The weight should then be transferred onto the good leg, and each crutch should be brought to the first step and allowed to take the person’s weight.
Descending stairs is far trickier, however, and it should be tackled with assistance until the user gets fully used to it. Descending safely involves holding the injured limb out in front and hopping to each step individually with the good foot – each crutch should always be placed on the step first in order to take the user’s weight.
These simple mobility aids are so successful because of their simple design, functionality and mobility, but it may be necessary to make some small changes to the home in order to use them safely. Everyday items and appliances should be moved to where they are fully accessible, excess clutter should be removed and electrical cables should be completely hidden as they pose very dangerous tripping hazards. These simple changes can mean the difference between languishing in a wheelchair and living a full and active life.