Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tip Tuesday: How to CORRECTLY use Crutches

It's that time of week again, time for Tip Tuesday! This week we are covering another medical topic - how to use crutches- CORRECTLY! This is a topic I've been really wanting to cover because teaching people how to use crutches is a part of my job and I would say about 50% of the population use them incorrectly! 

So I will write it out in my best and most simple advice here, and I'll let Youtube show you the rest! The first bit of advice I'd like to give you is this, should this information be confusing or you just cannot seem to get the hang of it, call a local physical therapist, most of them should offer free consults and will work with you one on one!

DISCLAIMER: This is a non-sponsored post. All opinions and advice given are strictly my own. Seek medical advice from a professional for any questions or concerns. This is not meant to be taken as medical advice, but as information given between friends. I do not and will not claim any liability or responsibility. This is a blog- its meant to be fun folks! 

Assess yourself - Are crutches your best (and safest) option? 

For the most part standard crutches are very safe. The only time they are not safe are for patients that have balance issues, are obese (over 350 lbs usually) or cannot hold themselves up. For patients with balance issues, try to find alternatives if possible, falling can cause more damage to the surgical site as well as other injuries can occur. For patients that are obese, the concern is being able to hold yourself up, you will be pushing UP on the crutches, not leaning down. If you cannot hold up your own body weight, then you shouldn't use crutches. 
If you qualify as someone who probably SHOULDN'T use crutches, then consider other options, such as a wheelchair, asking for a weight bearing brace or (my favorite- they're fun to use) a DonJoy Knee Scooter.  

You're going to be on Crutches - Get fitted!

I hardly ever use the sizing on the side of the crutches to measure to a patient completely. I use it as a guide to get within a few inches of the correct height, but usually, it's not as correct as you want it to be. 
You want the top of the crutch and the bottom of your armpit to be separated by THREE FINGERS. Put your fingers in between. If three fingers fit comfortably, you've fit them correctly. You do this because there are a LOT of nerves in your armpits and on your ribs. Fit the crutches too high, your armpits will be very sore for a few weeks. Fit them too low, it may feel as if you broke a rib! 
If they are the non-standard crutches, such as spring loaded crutches, see a physical therapist to get fitted. 

How to Use Them

First of all, you need to know this: USE YOUR ARMS AND PUSH UP. You need to use your forearms specifically and push down on the hand rests. Do not lean down onto them, stay upright. I tell most women to tuck their butts in, because it makes standing upright easier. 
Next, remember, LEAD WITH THE INJURED SIDE. You do this so that if you step and feel unsteady, you can then fall back onto your good foot. Walking on crutches is usually not an issue in you are young, healthy and able to hold yourself up.

If you have to use stairs, remember GOOD LEG GOES TO HEAVEN, BAD LEG GOES TO HELL. This means simply that you'll hop up the stairs leading with your good foot, and going down leading with the bad. Use a handrail if possible at all times. Take the second crutch and either double it under your armpit without the handrail or turn one crutch sideways and the other crutch the normal way. By doing it this way, you'll provide a small amount of safe space for you, because people won't bump into you without getting hit themselves. 

After surgery there is one thing I tell everyone: If you are on pain medication, don't be afraid to simply scoot up and down the stairs on your butt. Most people get woozy or feel dizzy on pain medication and that puts them at risk of falling. Avoid that by going up and down the stairs on your butt!
Good luck and if you have any questions, call a physical therapist to work with you specifically! 

Now for the videos!

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