There are several different types of crutches (including elbow crutches and gutter crutches) but by far the most common is the Axillary crutch.
The Axillary crutch is used following acute, short-term injuries and comes in both aluminium and wooden varieties that are adjustable in height and have a movable handgrip.
Correct fit adjustments:
To set the crutch at the correct height the person requiring them should be assisted to a full standing position whilst wearing their regular walking shoes.
- The pad at the top of each crutch should sit around 3 finger widths below the armpit (axilla) with the rubber tip sitting approximately 15 cm out from the side of the foot.
- Adjustments can be made by removing the wing nuts at the bottom of each crutch and adjusting the centre pole. Make sure both crutches are set to the same height.
- Your elbow should have a 15-30 degree bend in it when holding onto the hand grip. These can also be adjusted up and down.
Important tips to avoid injury:
CONCENTRATE when using your crutches! No matter how easy you think they are to use, it is just as easy to get all tangled up in them and fall perhaps sustaining further injury. This actually happens a lot.
Crutches are not suitable for everyone. You must have good upper body strength and excellent balance & co-ordination. If you are having problems it is advisable to seek medical advice (doctor, nurse or physiotherapist) for other options.
Despite being called Axilla crutches, you should never carry any weight through your arm pits. This can lead to damage to axillary nerves and blood vessels. There should always be space between the armpit and the top pad which presses against the side of your chest to stabilise the crutch during use. Weight is supported entirely through the arms.
Do not try to rush too quickly or take huge strides on the crutches.
Regularly check to make sure all the screws are tight.
Regularly check for wear on the rubber feet. After use on rough surfaces these feet can break away or wear through exposing the metal tubing of the crutch which is then extremely slippery on smooth surfaces.
If crutches are being used to prevent weight-bearing following a fracture, amputation or leg surgery a 3 point gait pattern should be used (see 35 second mark in video below).
- Standing on your uninjured foot, hold the foot on your injured side off the ground.
- Place rubber feet of both crutches about 30 cm in front of your uninjured foot and slightly more than hip width apart.
- Support your body weight through the handgrips and swing your body forward.
- Lift your uninjured foot and swing it through placing it 1 natural footstep in front of the crutches. Keep your injured side off the ground at all times.
Stair climbing: Pay attention to what you are doing.
- Lift unaffected leg up onto first step whilst supporting your weight on the crutches.
- Use the unaffected leg to push as you bring the crutches up onto the same step.
- Lift unaffected leg up to next step and repeat.
- Lower crutches down to the first step.
- Bring unaffected leg down to the same step.