A crutch is a device a person needing assistance with walking often uses. When a person is unable to support weight, a crutch can be used to transfer the person’s weight from his or her legs to the upper body. It is a mobility aid that is needed to help with walking after short-term injuries or life-long disabilities.
Walking or mobility aids are needed by people severely disabled or for long journeys which would otherwise be undertaken on foot.
If you have decided to buy crutches, the following information about the types available today, how they are used and help with support of the injured or disabled, and when they are the best alternative for the support you need should help you to make a decision of the best to buy crutches.
Drawings from Ancient Egypt depicted the first crutches known as “walking sticks”. These were patented by Emile Schlick in October of 1917.
The first walking sticks were most likely used to help a person stand. Over time, however, they became both weapons and symbols of authority. The size of the walking stick was determined by the size of the man using the walking stick. The tribe chiefs carried the most elaborate sticks. Elaborate carvings of the tribe’s emblems adorned these walking sticks.
The sticks of ancient Egypt were objects of prime importance depicting the occupation of a person. For instance, the staff of a shepherds was quite different from the stick of a merchant. A priest’s stick or that of a Pharaoh were also different. The people of ancient times also believed a mummy would need his stick during his travels after death. Therefore, the walking stick was placed next to the mummy in his coffin.
The design of the walking sticks during the middle ages showed the domination of the church at that time. Crosses and bishop’s crosiers adorned the walking sticks. Some walking sticks even had hiding places for precious stones, money and secret weapons.
The basic design of the crutch hasn’t changed since ancient times. However, A. R. Lofstrand, Jr. developed and patented the first height-adjustable crutch November 9, 1948. Because of the polio epidemic, Thomas Fetterman developed the forearm crutch in the 1950’s that were first produced in 1988.
A person suffering from an injury below the waist would most likely use a crutch for support and would seek to buy crutches suited to adding that support. The injuries include pulled muscles, bone fractures, broken bones, strains and sprains. They also provide support for people with mobility affecting disabilities. The specific type of crutch used by a person is based on the size and range of the injury, the support type needed and the person’s overall physical condition.
The forearm crutches are mobility aids usually made of plastic or metal. The weight of the body is shifted by the forearm crutch from an injured foot or leg to the upper body. The forearm crutch has a cuff that the user slips their forearm into with a hand grip grasp. This reduces the pressure on the wrist and improves control of mobility as well as maintains better posture.
People with disabilities or temporary injuries in the United States usually use the underarm type of crutch for support. When the pads of these crutches are placed beneath the armpits and the grips are held, less upper arm strength and training are required.
Be aware of the fact that to buy crutches of this type requires being properly fitted to the patient to avoid problems. The overall height of this type of crutch as well as the distance between the underarm supports to each handgrip are the two most important adjustments.
The cost of this type of crutch is less than other types.
If a person cannot bear weight on his or her wrist, the platform crutch would offer the support needed. This type crutch would be used by a person with cerebral palsy or arthritis. Padding of platforms provides comfort of a person’s upper extremities. This type of crutch is usually used by people needing a crutch over a long-term according to the Caylor School of Nursing at Lincoln Memorial University.
The design of this type of crutch is based on the need of a patient to help support a person with injuries or disabilities that affect only one leg’s lower portion. The injured leg is strapped to a support frame. The person’s weight load is transferred to the knee or thigh by the support frame. The arms or hands are not used when this type of crutch is used eliminating complications caused by other types. Leg support crutches cannot be used by a person with a hip, thigh or pelvis injury.
Problems of underarm crutches brought about the invention of the Easy Strutter Functional Orthosis System. The strutters eliminated problems such as blood clots, axillary artery stenosis and aneurysms.
Extensive use of the underarm crutch has been the cause of some nerve damage cases. The user’s weight is supported by strutters without nerves and blood vessels in the axillary area being injured. The axillary area is the region of the body where the shoulder is connected under the arm.
One of the longest tendons of your body is the Achilles tendon. Its basic function is to connect your calf muscles to your heel bone. It, therefore, is used by you every time you take a step. Every time you step, walk, jump, run, dance or basically use your legs, your Achilles tendon is engaged.
It is no wonder it is so often injured. When too much force is applied to the tendon, the result can be severe injuries to the Achilles tendon or a partial tear of the tendon. The worst injuries of the tendon are the total tearing of the tendon or a complete rupture.
Any of the above symptoms indicates the need for you to seek immediate medical attention. Just how severe your injury is can be diagnosed by a medical professional.
Adjustments are then gradually made to put the person’s foot into a neutral position. During this part of the healing process, the patient must not walk on the foot and must stay off the leg for the period recommended by his or her doctor.
During this period of time, the foot must be totally non-weight bearing.
If surgery is the necessary treatment, the patient must wear a cast or walking boot for at least six to twelve weeks. The purpose of the cast or boot is to keep the patient’s toes pointed downward during the first part of the healing process.
Traditional – This type allows for walking without weight on the patient’s injured leg. Although these are inexpensive and available for purchase, they have many disadvantages:
Knee walkers or scooters – The popularity of these has grown over recent years. The user of a knee scooter bends his or her injured leg about 90 degrees at the knee. At the same time, the patient kneels onto a platform attached to a four-wheel frame.
The scooter is steered by the user with the handlebars of the scooter in much the same way a person steers a bicycle. The fact that both hands are needed to steer the scooter makes this scooter too restricting for performing daily activities. The scooter is both bulky and heavy and must be stored in the back seat or trunk of a car. The scooter’s turn radius is limited. Knee scooters are not suited to be used in small areas, on stairs, on slopes or uneven terrain.
iWALK2.0 (hands free) – The iWALK2.0 is both pain and hands free and the most recent mobility device added to today’s market. Using this scooter requires the patient to kneel on a platform in much the same way knee walkers do. However, straps secure the device to your natural leg allowing it to function like the patient’s own leg would.
This device allows your arms and hands to be free to perform daily tasks. It is also a device that is easy to use during normal walking and can also be used in the shower. You can easily navigate stairs and hold onto their rails since your hands are free.
Hands free devices have been found to result in faster healing of lower leg injuries. The feeling of well-being is a significant benefit of the iWALK2.0.
A patient’s mobility will eventually return after surgery through the use of a prosthetic. To receive this mobility, it is essential that a patient prepare for the benefits of the artificial limb.
When relaxing at home, showering or doing something that may strain or damage your prosthetic, you may prefer one of the following alternatives to wearing your prosthetic:
Wheel chair – If your home is large and/or single story, you may prefer to use a wheelchair. Ramps can be used in a home with minimal stairs.
Knee Scooter – A knee scooter, described above, can enable an amputee to be mobile throughout the home.
Traditional Crutches – Amputees use these when navigating at home. The pros and cons of these are described above and tips on using them follow.
iWALK2.0 – The iWALK2.0 is currently the only hands-free device on the market today.
One of the most common joint or bone injuries is a broken ankle or ankle fracture.
Chronic overuse or sudden trauma to a foot may cause a fracture or break to a foot’s bone.
Most cases of foot fractures or breaks in a bone of the foot do not require surgery. When surgery is not required, the patient should use the following suggestions for relief:
Patients with CRPS also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy suffer from an inflammatory disorder. This disorder usually affects one or more limb although it can affect any body part. Damage to tissues is caused by injury or trauma. This damage causes a person’s nerves to misfire resulting in the malfunction of the immune system and the nervous system. Because of this connection being continuously faulty, the person suffers with constant pain. The affected injury is magnified with an abnormal response and the pain becomes more severe.
The intensity of these symptoms can vary. Emotions have been found to affect levels of pain. Anger and/or stress may significantly increase these symptoms causing each case to dramatically differ from others.
The person suffering from CRPS must walk with the least weight on affected area. The following devices can help with recovery:
Repeated force on a bone can cause stress fractures or breaks in bones. A period of non-weight bearing is recommended by physicians for severe stress fractures. The physician will usually recommend no weight be put on the injured limb for one to three weeks. With physician consultation, the patient should decide on the best crutch option.
The best crutch options include:
The most common long bone often fractured is the tibia.
Tips on how to use crutches:
When you walk with a crutch, you should step forward and put your crutch ahead of your weak leg:
When sitting down:
Before you are ready to tackle stairs, you can, of course, sit down on a stair and scoot up or down the stairs. You would move from step to step one at a time.
Follow these steps to travel up and down stairs while on your feet. It is a good idea to practice these steps with the help of someone supporting you.
It is most important that when you turn using a crutch, you never pivot on your weak leg. You should pivot on your strong leg.
Follow these steps for easy standing: