How to Use Crutches, Canes, and Walkers
Using walking aids helps to speed the healing process by taking pressure off injured bones as you stand and walk. In the beginning, everything you do may seem difficult. But, with a few tips and some practice, you will gain confidence and learn to use your walking aid safely.
- Remove scatter rugs, electrical cords, spills, and anything else that may cause a fall.
- In the bathroom, use nonslip bath mats, grab bars, a raised toilet seat, and a shower tub seat.
- Simplify your household to keep the items you need handy and everything else out of the way.
- Use a backpack, fanny pack, apron, or briefcase to help you carry things around.
Proper size and positioning
The top of your crutches should reach roughly 4cm below your armpits while you stand up with your crutches. Place their tips about 15 cm from the sides of your feet. The handgrips of the crutches should be even with the top of your hip line. Your elbows should bend a bit when you use the handgrips. Hold the top of the crutches tightly to your sides, and use your hands to absorb the weight. Don’t let the tops of the crutches press into your armpits.
Partial weight on your injured leg:
Your doctor may allow you to place some of your weight on the injured leg. Use the method below:
- Stand straight, with shoulders relaxed and your arms slightly bent. Lean your body slightly forward, distributing your weight between the crutches and your uninjured leg.
- You can put some weight on your injured leg. Move the crutches forward. Then move your injured leg up to meet them.
- Put some weight on you injured leg as you move your uninjured leg ahead of the crutches. Now repeat these steps to keep walking.
No weight on your injured leg:
If your doctor says you should not put any weight on your injured leg while walking with crutches, use the method below.
- Stand straight with all your weight on your uninjured leg. Relax your shoulders. Hold the foot of your injured leg off the floor by flexing your knee slightly.
- Balance all your weight on the crutches tips, slightly in front of you. Use the uninjured leg and crutches to support your weight as you lean your body slightly forward.
- Shift all your weight to the uninjured leg and move the crutches forward together, swinging the injured leg along with them. Do not put any weight on your injured leg.
- Now shift all your weight back to the crutches via your hands and wrists; swing your uninjured leg forward, and again place all your weight on this leg, using the crutches to keep your balance.
To walk up and down stairs with crutches, you need to be both strong and flexible. Facing the stairway, hold the handrail with one hand and tuck both crutches under your armpit on the other side. When you’re going up, lead with your good foot, keeping the injured foot raised behind you. When you’re going down, hold your injured foot up in front, and hop down each stair on your good foot. Take it one step at a time. You may want someone to help you, at least at first. If you’re facing a stairway with no handrails, use the crutches under both arms and hop up or down each step on your good leg, using more strength.
An easier way is to sit on the stairs and inch yourself up and down each step. Start by sitting on the lowest stair with your injured leg out in front. Hold both crutches flat against the stairs in your opposite hand. Scoot your bottom up to the next step, using your free hand and good leg for support. Face the same direction when you go down the stairs this way.
Back up to a sturdy chair. Put your injured foot in front of you and both crutches in one hand. Use the other hand to feel for the seat of your chair. Slowly lower yourself into it. Lean your crutches upside down in a handy location. (Crutches tend to fall over when they are stood on their tips.)
To stand up, inch yourself to the front of the chair. Hold both crutches in the hand on your good leg side. Push yourself up and stand on the good leg. You can also push yourself up while grasping the handgrip of a crutch in each hand.
You may find it helpful to use a cane if you have a small problem with balance or instability, some weakness in your leg or trunk, an injury, or pain. If you are elderly, a single point cane may also help you to keep living independently.
The top of your cane should reach to the crease in your wrist when you stand up straight. Your elbow should bend a bit when you hold your cane. Hold the cane in the hand opposite the side that needs support.
- When you walk, the cane and your injured leg swing and strike the ground at the same time.
- To start, position your cane about one small stride ahead and step off on your injured leg.
- Finish the step with your normal leg.
To climb stairs, grasp the handrail (if possible) and step up on your good leg first, with your cane in the hand opposite the injured leg. Then step up on the injured leg. To come down stairs, put your cane on the step first, then your injured leg, and finally the good leg, which carries your body weight.
If you have had total knee or hip joint replacement surgery, or you have another significant problem, you may need more help with balance and walking than you can get with crutches or a cane. A pickup walker with four solid prongs on the bottom may give you the most stability. The walker lets you keep all or some of your weight off of your lower body as you take your steps. You use your arms to support some of the weight. The top of your walker should match the crease in your wrist when you stand up straight. Do not hurry when you use a walker. As your strength and endurance improve, you may gradually be able to carry more weight in your legs.
First, put your walker about one step ahead of you, making sure the legs of your walker are level to the ground.
- With both hands, grip the top of the walker for support and walk into it, stepping off on your injured leg.
- Touch the heel of this foot to the ground first, then flatten the foot and finally lift the toes off the ground as you complete your step with your good leg.
- Don’t step all the way to the front bar of your walker. Take small steps when you turn.
To sit, back up until your legs touch the chair. Reach back to feel the seat before you sit. To get up from a chair, push yourself up and grasp the walker’s grips. Make sure the rubber tips on your walker’s legs stay in good shape.
Never try to climb stairs or use an escalator with your walker.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: www.aaos.org
- Up to Date: www.uptodate.com