Learning how to walk on crutches can be challenging to say the least.

It's not easy. There are all sorts of things which you will now notice in your disabled state. Stairs, stuff on the ground or floor, going to the bathroom, all sorts of everyday activities suddenly become hazardous to your already altered health.

Follow these tips and you will be more comfortable and able to travel with less risk of further injury.

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Sizing / Fitting Your Crutches

Even if you've been fitted for crutches, make sure your crutch pads and handgrips are set at the proper distance.

Balance & Body Positioning

Balance is key to walking well with crutches. Keep your body in good alignment with your head held high, shoulders back, and stomach and buttocks in. Be sure and look ahead as you walk with your crutches, don't look down.

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Walking with Crutches

This a typical method if your doctor has told you to avoid ALL weight bearing on your injured foot or leg. You will need sufficient strength in your upper body to support all your weight with just your arms and shoulders. (Yes, tiring.)

  1. Begin in a tripod position, with your crutches slightly out in front and to the side of each foot (4-6 inches). Keep all of your weight on your good foot.
  2. Keep the crutches close to your body under each arm. Your hands should be on the handgrips, your thumbs inside and other fingers wrapped around.
  3. Advance the crutch tips and affected leg forward a short, but comfortable stepping distance.
  4. Step forward with your good leg to a comfortable position in front of the crutches. Carry your weight with your arms, shoulders, and crutches.
  5. You've taken a step! Awesome! Now take another, and another, and another. . .

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Getting Into a Chair

  1. Make sure the chair is stable and will not roll or slide. Ideally it should have arms and back support.
  2. Get close to the chair with the backs of your legs touching the front of the seat.
  3. Place crutches in one hand (preferably on your uninjured side), grasping them by the handgrips.
  4. Hold the crutches to the side and grasp the chair arm (or back) with your free hand for balance and support.
  5. Move your injured leg forward as you gently lower yourself into the chair.

Getting Out of a Chair

  1. Slide forward to the edge of the chair, keeping your injured foot flat on the floor.
  2. Hold both crutches in the hand on your injured side, lean forward and grip the chair arm (or back) with your other hand.
  3. Push yourself up with your uninjured foot and leg, using the chair for stability.
  4. Transfer one crutch to the other side.
  5. Keep your injured foot off of the floor with a flexed knee if possible.
  6. When standing comfortably, say, "Sweet! I did it!" (Because getting out of a chair can be pretty darn hard with crutches.)

Walking Up Stairs - No Handrail

  1. Push down hard on the crutches with your arms (argh!) and lift your body upward.
  2. Step up with your good leg onto the first step.
  3. Bring up your injured leg and crutches together to the same step as the "good" leg. Crutches and both legs should now be on the same step.
  4. Keep going, you'll get there!

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Walking Up Stairs - With a Handrail

  1. Place both crutches in the hand away from the handrail (or hand one to a friend) and grasp the handrail with your other hand.
  2. Step up with your uninjured leg, pushing down on the railing and the crutches to propel yourself upwards.
  3. Lift yourself and your crutches to the step.
  4. Yeah, you're doing it!

Going Down Stairs - No Handrail (Scary!)

  1. Approach the stairs carefully and put the crutches securely on the first step down, while your good foot is on the top.
  2. Balancing on the crutches, step down with your good foot, putting your bad foot out front.
  3. Crutches and legs should be on the same step.
  4. Repeat, but be careful!

Going Down Stairs - With a Handrail (Still a bit scary)

  1. Again, carefully approach the stairs. Transfer both crutches under the arm away from the handrail (or hand one to a friend).
  2. Put the crutches a step down. Push down on the handrail and hop to follow with your good foot. Put as much weight on the rail as you can.
  3. Use the crutches for balance, but otherwise keep them out of the way.
  4. Keep hopping and be cautious. Take a break if you need to, don't worry, you'll get there!
  5. When you get to the bottom, put your crutches back under both arms normally and proceed.

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Walking Through Doorways

Doors open either toward you or away from you, right? Each doorway requires a different approach.

  1. To get through a doorway opening toward you, stand to the side of the door and open the door with the hand on your uninjured side while supporting your injured side with a crutch.
  2. Be careful of self-closing doors, since your crutch can get caught.
  3. For doors opening outward, stand in front of the door and open it with the hand on the uninjured side. While holding the door open with a crutch, walk through.
  4. You can also try to get assistance. Just look at the door for a moment, sigh loudly, mutter, "I hate doors", and someone will surely come to your aid.

Nancy's #1 Tip

Never, ever pass up a bathroom stop. You're not moving very fast and when the urge hits you, you might be a few too many minutes away from that oh so needed facility.

Also, use the disabled stall when available. It's made just for people like you. There should be a handrail to help you out and plenty of room to move around in there on your crutches.

If someone's in the disabled stall, and you can wait for it, go ahead and wait. If the stall user emerges and is not of the disabled variety, they'll feel plenty guilty when they see you on your crutches.

Crutch Buddies presents this educational reference as a public service and for informational purposes only. The material is derived from current medical knowledge. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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