How to Adjust to Crutches

Three Parts:Adjusting to Crutches PhysicallyAdjusting to Crutches MentallyPreparing to Use Your Crutches

If you have sustained an injury that requires crutches, there are many factors to consider so that you’ll be prepared once you start using them. After you have been told by the doctor that you are going to have to use crutches, don't be upset. Keep calm and focus on how to adjust or prevent injury while using crutches.

Part 1
Adjusting to Crutches Physically

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    Do not put all of your weight on your armpits. You have a multitude of nerves under your armpits, or brachial plexus. These nerves are responsible for sensation and movement for your arms and hands, and putting all of your weight on these nerves can cause nerve damage. To avoid this, hold yourself up with your hands and squeeze your upper arms into your crutches. But don't squeeze too hard because you might break a rib.[1]
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    Watch for skin irritation under your arms. Be prepared that you might develop red irritated areas under your arms from using the crutches over time. This is the result of the unavoidable constant rubbing of the crutches on the skin they come into contact with.
    • To help alleviate this irritation, put some Vaseline on the area of the skin that is bothering you.
    • Wear a sports bra if you're a girl; it will keep from the wire hurting as well. If you're a guy, try to wear more shirts; maybe layer them or wear an undershirt.
    • You can also wrap towels around the top of of the crutches and then tape them on with duct tap to provide more cushioning.
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    Take breaks when using your crutches for long periods. If you feel yourself getting tired, stop and wait. If you’re in school, your teachers probably won't mind if you’re a little late to class. You could even ask the teachers if you can leave two minutes before the bell rings so you're not stuck in the hall gasping for air.

Part 2
Adjusting to Crutches Mentally

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    Ask for help. More than likely people will be happy to help when they see you struggle. People might even offer to help you before you have to ask. If they offer, say yes. It will be hard doing all of the things you normally do by yourself, so enlisting the help of friends and family members will be a necessary evil for you during this time.[2]
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    Plan ahead. Many simple life tasks are exponentially more difficult while you are using crutches. Things like grocery shopping and preparing food become especially challenging while you are restricted in how you can use your hands. The key is to plan ahead for what you’ll need for the week and get some help obtaining those items.[3]
    • If you go grocery shopping, carrying food can throw off your balance. If you put the goods you want to purchase in a bag, it can look like you are trying to steal it. To avoid these potentially embarrassing situations, prepare a list of what you’ll need for the week and ask someone to go shopping for you.
    • You can also use an online delivery service for these things if you can afford it.
    • If you are in school, then avoid wearing a backpack with books in it while you are using crutches. The extra weight can create extra unnecessary pressure on your armpits. Ask a friend to carry your books for you while you are using crutches.
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    Be prepared for the jokes. People can sometimes be cruel when they encounter someone with a disability or who appears different from them in some way. While you are using your crutches, you might get made fun of by someone like this because you are slower than usual, because you can’t do all the things you normally do, or simply because the crutches look different. If this happens to you, don’t take it personally. Just smile and keep moving forward.

Part 3
Preparing to Use Your Crutches

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    Decide which kind of crutches you want. There are two kinds of crutches: underarm crutches and forearm crutches. Perhaps your doctor will have a preference about which kind he or she prefers you to use, but if the choice is up to you, do a little research to decide which kind would most benefit you.[4]
    • Underarm crutches: These are easier to master and maneuver than forearm crutches, but can lead to more soreness and discomfort from the way they press against your body during use.
    • Forearm crutches: These require more upper body strength than underarm crutches and can be more difficult to navigate initially, but they are better suited for long term use than underarm crutches.
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    Ask as many questions as possible. It will be helpful for you if you come to your doctor’s office prepared with the questions you want to ask. Once you leave the office, it may be harder to get the answers that you need. Ask questions that directly relate to the activities you perform in your daily life.[5] Here are some general questions you may want to ask:[6]
    • Is it okay to rest your injured limb on the ground? Should you avoid placing any weight on it whatsoever?
    • Can you just use one crutch as a cane? What’s the best way to walk using this method?
    • How can you bathe? Is it okay to stand in the shower, or should you take baths instead?
    • What is the proper posture to maintain while using crutches?
    • Do you need to limit other physical activities like swimming or sex?
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    Properly adjust the height of your crutches. Using crutches can be much more painful if you don’t properly adjust them to the dimensions of your specific body. Even if they were adjusted for your by a medical professional, sometimes these settings need adjusting once you start using them.[7][8]
    • Crutches should be adjusted while you are standing with the base of the crutches situated about six inches from the sides of your feet.
    • The underarm supports should be two inches below your armpits.
    • When you put your hands on the grips, your elbow should bend slightly.
    • If you feel like you have to hunch over when you are using your crutches, they are too short.

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Categories: Medication and Medical Equipment