How to make your crutches more comfortable
How to Make Your Crutches More Comfortable
Stuck using crutches after a leg injury? You may soon find that, in addition to the injury itself, you're dealing with discomfort from constantly leaning on your new supports. However, by adding extra cushioning and using your crutches in ways that minimize discomfort, you can make the recovery process much more comfortable.
Use rolled-up towels or blankets as cushions.One of the oldest, simplest, and most effective ways to make a pair of crutches more comfortable is to make improvised cushions from spare pieces of fabric. There's no "right" fabric for the job—you can use towels, pieces of an old blanket, or even small pillows. Below is an example of how you might do this for a pair of crutches:
- Cut out 2 3 feet (0.91 m) by 3 feet (0.9 m) pieces of an old blanket.
- Roll both pieces of fabric into loose rolls that are slightly wider than the top portions of the crutches.
- Use a sturdy tape (like packing tape or duct tape) to tape each roll over the top of one of the crutches. Tape the fabric in place tightly—if it slides around while you move, it can affect your posture and lead to further discomfort.
Put cushioning underneath the current crutch pads, if present.Many crutches come with a removable foam pad on top that's meant to fit under your arm. Another way to add cushioning to an uncomfortable set of crutches is to take these pads off, stuff them with cushioning material, and put them back on. This may be difficult or impossible for some crutches, so be careful not to damage your crutches by forcing the pads off or on.
- You can use wadded-up fabric to cushion your crutches in this way, or other materials like cotton, stuffing from an old comforter, and so on.
Invest in a set of commercial crutch pads for greater comfort.It's no secret in the medical community that crutches can be uncomfortable. Because of this, there is a small market for cushioning devices that can be used to make crutches more comfortable. These are usually made from foam, gel, or a breathable fabric material and are reasonably affordable—a complete set often goes for about .
- You can purchase basic crutch accessories at many pharmacies, but for a better selection of products, it may be wiser to go online, where you have access to a huge variety of materials, sizes, patterns, and so on. Shopping online, you can even buy high-fashion crutch pads, like sets made from faux fur.
Cushion the grip areas as well, if needed.Your underarms aren't the only parts of your body that can get sore when you're using crutches. Since you're supporting much of your weight on your palms, it's also common for the hands to start hurting during crutch use. Luckily, cushioning the grip bars can reduce this discomfort somewhat.
- You can use improvised cushions (taped towels or rags) or commercial pads for this. However, the latter may be the be the better choice, since it's important that you're able to have a firm grip on your crutches to avoid a fall. Many commercial crutch pads feature ergonomic materials and shapes designed to give you a better grip on the crutches.
- Cushioning the grip area can be even more important on forearm crutches, since these put more of your weight on your hands.
Using Your Crutches Comfortably
Adjust your crutches to the correct height.Even cushioned crutches can be a pain to use if they don't fit you properly. Luckily, nearly all modern crutches have easy-to-use telescoping portions that allow you to adjust the height. The proper height for your crutches depends on how tall you are and what kind of crutches you use.For example:
- Underarm crutches:Wear the shoes that you use for day-to-day life and stand upright. Slide the crutches under your arms and put the tips a few inches or centimeters in front of your feet. Adjust the crutches so that they rest just an inch or 2 (2.5 to 5 cm) beneath your armpits. A friend can help here. The crutches should not jut up into your armpits.
- Forearm crutches:Wear the shoes that you use for day-to-day life and stand upright. Slide the crutches onto your arms and grasp the handles. Flex your elbow so that the inside of your wrist is level with your hip at about a 30° angle. Adjust the crutch so that it touches the floor in this position. The armrest should support the largest part of your forearm and the handle should be level with your wrist.
Make sure you're holding the crutches correctly.Wrist or hand pain can be a sign that you're holding the crutches in a way that puts unnecessary stress on these parts of your body. Using proper grip form should minimize this pain. When using either underarm or forearm crutches:
- You should maintain a slight bend in your elbows while you use your crutches. Your forearms should be straight from the elbow through the wrist. Don't curl your wrists as you use the crutches.
Pay attention to your gait.Having an off-kilter gait when walking normally can be a sign of other underlying problems and can lead to persistent, long-lasting pain.These problems are exacerbated when using crutches, which modify your normal gait by design. Maintaining proper posture throughout the walking motion is crucial to your ongoing comfort. While there are some differences in proper gait depending on the type of crutches you use, similar rules apply for the most common types. For example:
- Underarm crutches:Grasp the crutches securely. Stand on your uninjured leg and set the crutches 1 step ahead. Lean forward as you use the crutches to swing yourself forward. Land on your uninjured leg about a step ahead of where your crutches touch the ground. Swing the crutches forward and repeat. Keep your injured leg off of the ground at all times.
- Forearm crutches:Grasp the crutches securely. Stand on your uninjured leg and set the crutches 1 step ahead. Lean forward, put your weight onto the crutches, and swing your body forward. Use your forearms to maintain your balance and control during the swinging motion. Land on your uninjured leg about a step ahead of where your crutches touch the ground. As with underarm crutches, keep your injured leg off of the ground at all times.
Let your body "follow through" with each step.Taking steps with a set of crutches can take some getting used to before you're able to do it in a way that doesn't put any unnecessary stress on your joints. As you make contact with the ground, landing on your uninjured foot, try to keep your joints (especially your elbows and the knee on your uninjured leg) "loose" without collapsing your posture. Allowing your joints to bend slightly with each step will take some of the stress of walking off of them, preventing discomfort.
- Youdon'twant to have stiff or locked joints when you make contact with the ground. This increases the physical impact your joints feel with each step and will quickly cause soreness.
Take extra care on stairs.It's no wonder that certain everyday tasks become extra-hard when you're using crutches. Knowing the proper way to go about doing these tasks won't just keep you more comfortable—it will also minimize the chance for injuries. For instance, climbing a set of stairs can be harrowing on crutches, so use the following mnemonics to help you remember how to accomplish this task:
- Step on theGASgoing up. First, step with yourGood leg, then lift yourAffected leg, then move yourSticks
- Let yourselfSAGgoing down. First, move yourSticks, then move yourAffected leg, then step with yourGood leg.
QuestionI'm getting knee surgery soon, and the doctors are making me use crutches for about a month. Are there any ways to make them comfortable, but for a long period of time?
Family Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse PractitionerExpert AnswerIt may take a while for you to get used to the crutches, especially if you need to be mobile and use them for a long time. First, rest your weight on your hands, and position your armpits about an inch (2.5 cm) above the top of the crutches. This prevents pain in your underarms. Second, keep your elbows slightly bent when holding hand grips. Third, you may want to invest in crutch pads to support your underarms, hands and wrists. When using crutches for long periods of time, additional good quality padding can be a lifesaver. Also, always practice good posture and body mechanics, even if it takes an extra effort.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if the crutches are too short?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk your doctor for another pair. Look on the side; there might be buttons to resize them.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if I am getting blisters on my hands?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPut a towel or soft material on the pads where your hands go. This helped me a lot when I had blisters.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I make my uninjured leg more comfortable?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWear comfortable shoes and sit down when possible, as standing can increase the stress on your uninjured leg.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I make my crutches more comfortable if they are too long?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry cutting memory foam and placing it on the crutch part where it supports your arms.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get my crutches to not give me red marks that hurt under my arms and on my ribs?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerUse your forearms more to pick yourself up and your crutches may be too tall for you. You can also wrap the ends of your crutches with soft material.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I tell if my MCL is torn?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYour knee will buckle every time you put weight on it; it will physically give way as your MCL is what stabilizes your knee.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if my crutches are hurting my armpits?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWrap them in old blankets or towels to make the crutches more comfortable.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I'm 5'7, but the 5'7 button is way below my armpit?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMove the crutches higher until the size is a comfortable fit for you. You should have 2 or 3 fingers-worth between your arm pit and the crutch.Thanks!
QuestionMy crutches are very loud when walking on linoleum. How can I quiet them down?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCut out a piece of memory foam or fabric that fits the size of the bottom and glue them to the bottom.Thanks!
- Note that you may need to readjust your crutches once you add cushioning to them.
- If you take off your shoes, don't forget to adjust the height of your crutches to compensate. Even this minor change can make a big difference in your comfort.
- Consider investing in a properly-fitting backpack if you find yourself wearing crutches. Struggling to carry a bag or a poorly-fitting backpack on crutches can easily lead to muscle soreness (and accidents). You may even want to consider buying pocket accessories for your crutches to help you carry your possessions without throwing off your gait.
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