Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
How to Use Crutches, Canes & Walkers

Using mobility aids like crutches, canes, and walkers can greatly assist individuals in maintaining mobility and independence while recovering from injuries or managing certain conditions affecting their ability to walk. Here’s a general guide on how to use each of these aids effectively:

Crutches

Crutches are typically used for injuries or conditions that affect one leg, making it difficult or painful to bear weight on that limb. Proper adjustment and technique are essential to prevent further injury and ensure safe mobility:

Choosing the Right Crutches:

  • Crutches come in various types, including underarm (axillary) crutches and forearm (elbow) crutches. The choice depends on comfort and stability preferences.
  • Ensure the crutches are the correct height. When standing upright, the top of the crutches should be about 1-2 inches below the armpit, and the hand grips should be at the level of the hips.

Standing Up:

  • Place crutches a few inches in front of you while standing with the uninjured leg.
  • Use your hands on the handgrips and push up from the chair or bed to stand.

Walking:

  • Move the crutches forward a short distance, followed by the injured leg.
  • Support your weight through your hands and arms on the crutches, not your armpits.

Stairs:

  • For going up stairs, lead with the unaffected leg, followed by the crutches and injured leg.
  • For going down stairs, place the crutches on the lower step first, followed by the injured leg, then the unaffected leg.

Sitting Down:

  • Back up to the chair or seat until you feel it against the back of your legs.
  • Place both crutches under one arm, and use your other hand to hold onto the armrest or seat.
  • Lower yourself slowly into the chair.

Tips:

  • Wear supportive, flat shoes to prevent slipping.
  • Avoid putting weight on the axillary pads (the pads under the armpits) to prevent nerve damage.

Canes

Canes provide support and stability for individuals who have mild balance issues or need assistance with walking due to a leg injury or weakness:

Choosing the Right Cane:

  • Canes come in various styles, including single-point canes (standard canes), quad canes (four-point base), and offset canes. Choose based on stability needs.

Adjusting Height:

  • Stand upright with shoes on, and the top of the cane should be at the crease of your wrist.

Walking:

  • Hold the cane in the hand opposite to the affected leg.
  • Move the cane forward simultaneously with the affected leg.
  • Support your weight through both the cane and the unaffected leg.

Stairs:

  • Hold onto the railing with one hand and the cane in the other hand.
  • For going up stairs, lead with the unaffected leg, followed by the cane and affected leg.
  • For going down stairs, lead with the cane, followed by the affected leg, then the unaffected leg.

Sitting Down:

  • Follow similar steps as with crutches, adjusting for stability with the cane.

Walkers

Walkers provide the most stability among these aids and are suitable for individuals who need significant support due to balance issues or weight-bearing restrictions:

Choosing the Right Walker:

  • Walkers come in different types, such as standard walkers with no wheels, wheeled walkers, and rollators (walkers with wheels and hand brakes). Choose based on stability needs and maneuverability.

Adjusting Height:

  • Stand upright with shoes on, and the top of the walker should be at the crease of your wrist.

Walking:

  • Stand inside the walker and grasp the handgrips firmly.
  • Move the walker forward a short distance, followed by stepping into it with the affected leg.
  • Ensure all walker legs are firmly on the ground before taking a step.

Turning:

  • To turn, pivot the walker by shifting your weight and lifting the back legs slightly off the ground.

Sitting Down:

  • Approach the chair or seat and turn around to feel it against the back of your legs.
  • Back up carefully until you feel the chair, and then sit down.

Stairs:

  • If using a standard walker or rollator without wheels, you typically need to switch to a cane or crutches for stairs due to their design.

Tips For All Aids

  • Practice: Take time to practice using the aid in a safe environment before attempting longer walks or stairs.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Avoid loose or long clothing that could catch on the aid.
  • Follow Instructions: Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on how to use the aid correctly.

Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for personalized advice on selecting and using crutches, canes, or walkers based on your specific condition and needs. Proper use can enhance mobility, aid in recovery, and prevent further injury during rehabilitation.

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