Crutches: History, Types, and Method of Use
How Old Are Crutches Exactly?
Crutches are the most common mobility aids that you may have noticed being used by people in everyday life. Crutches have been in use since historical times. Ancient carvings and artifacts have often been found to portray humans leaning on makeshift crutches and staffs made from wood. Crutches were common during the times of Egyptian Pharaohs as early as 3,000 BC. Today, they are confirmed by the drawings and scriptures present in the Pyramids. The earliest crutches were T-shaped made from hardwood but now they are replaced by the new V-shaped ones. Many new and improved versions of crutches are developed each year and help to improve a patient’s individual experience. The main principle by which they work is by increasing the base support of an individual. They transfer the weight from the lower limbs to the upper body making it easier for people to ambulate. Perfectly fitting crutches mitigate the chance of subsequent falls and joint degeneration in crippled patients.
What Injuries Require Crutches?
Many people use non-weight bearing crutches to keep their weight off the injured leg. This helps to shorten the convalescent stage and get the patient mobile as soon as possible. There are different types of injuries and each one requires a specific type of crutches. The most common injuries which employ their use include:
3.Sprains (Ankle and Knee)
4.Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
8.Post-Total Hip Replacement Surgery
Choosing the Right Crutches for You
There are many different types of crutches available now that can fit properly into your situation. There are numerous options to choose from, and they include the following:
1.Forearm Crutches(Lofstrand Crutches)
The forearm crutches also known as elbow crutches have an open cuff that grips around the user’s forearm. They are mostly in use by people who have contracted major chronic disabilities like Multiple Sclerosis and Polio Disease, or trauma such as roadside accidents which might have resulted in an amputation. They are easier to use as they offer greater clearance and people can easily navigate over stairs and complex terrains. Forearm crutches are further split into two categories:
a.Closed Cuff Crutches (Full Cuff)
These crutches wrap around the upper forearm and have a small gap in the opening to easily place your arm inside. The cuff is made up of flexible materials and can oftentimes be tightened/adjusted to your arm’s circumference to ensure a tight grip. Some varieties of these cuffs are also hinged which allows a greater amount of freedom for the user. They are also commonly known as “Canadian Crutches.”
b.Open Cuff (Half Cuff):
Open cuff forearm crutches have an open molded plastic cuff. They offer greater flexibility and mobility while looking stylish and minimalistic in design. They are more aesthetically valued and are an easy choice for most professional people. They are commonly found in Europe, and hence termed as European Crutches.
2.Underarm Crutches (Axilla/Axillary Crutches):
These are the most common type. These models can be easily adjusted to the height and the arm length of the individuals. They are quite suitable for short-term disabilities like knee injuries, sprains, and post-op surgical recovery. Little training is required to use them, and they are inexpensive as well. Correct size and fit are necessary as an improper fit can affect the muscles and nerves of the underarms.
Strutters are underarm crutches that also come with an armrest and handgrip attached. They have a spring mechanism inside them and provide better stability to the body. They offer a more even distribution of weight under the arms and help prevent damage to the nerves. They are mostly used by people who have weak leg strength. The only drawback they have is that they are bulky, and thus, can limit mobility to a certain degree.
The hands-free crutches are a recent development and act as a peg for your leg. To use this type of crutches, you don’t need to use your hands. You must kneel on the padded platform to keep your legs elevated while the lower part of the crutches acts as a temporary prosthetic leg. It offers greater freedom as compared to other conventional crutches, but you need some training to adapt to this type. It works well for below-the-knee injuries but not for injuries that involve the knee joint. By not relying on hands, you can perform your daily activities more easily like going out for a walk, shopping, and even some light exercise.
These crutches are made from steel and are exceptionally durable. They are ideal for patients having a heavier build. The construction is very sturdy and can easily support the weight of the patients which the normally thin and light aluminum frames cannot. Their armpit pads and handgrips have extra padding to provide better cushioning and comfort to the patients.
Hope Crutches are non-conventional types of crutches and are more comfortable as compared to traditional under-arm crutches. These crutches reduce the risk of falling and the risk of injury. Its ergonomically designed handgrips eliminate the underarm irritation which the traditional crutches induced and cause less fatigue. The adjustable height makes them ideal for people between 5’ 2” and 6’ 8”.
How to Fit and Use Crutches Safely?
Before using crutches, it is better to consult your physician or physiotherapist to ensure their proper usage. This includes proper positioning and sizing. By properly setting up the crutches, you are less likely to cause damage to the vessels and nerve bundles in the arms or hands. Some basic steps to follow for getting a good fit is as follows:
For Underarm Crutches
1.Stand tall with your shoes on. It is better to use shoes with flat soles.
2.Put the crutches under your arms and keep a 2-inch space below your armpit when standing straight.
3.The handgrips should be parallel to your hips with the elbow slightly bent (about 30 degrees). This ensures wider mobility.
4.Use your hands to absorb the weight rather than leaning on your armpits. If you lean, there can be substantial damage to the brachial plexus, and this can hamper the functionality of your arm.
For Forearm Crutches
1.By standing straight, you need to adjust the cuffs 1 to 2 inches below your elbow joint.
2.The handgrips should be close to the wrist joint to ensure a proper grip.
How to Use Crutches When Walking?
Walking on crutches is a relatively simple task and you can easily do so by having these simple precautionary measures in mind:
1.To take a step, you should squeeze the crutches between your upper arms and ribs and put force through your hands and not your armpits.
2.First, move the crutches forward, and then move your injured leg. The foot should then be equal to the crutches, and not ahead or behind it.
3.Only put enough weight on the injured leg that doesn’t cause discomfort and shift the rest of the weight through your crutches.
4.Then finally step forward your healthy leg.
In summary, move your crutches first, your injured leg next, and finally your healthy leg. Practice repeatedly to achieve a smoother gait.
How to Use Your Crutches on Stairs?
Using crutches on stairs can be quite difficult for most people at the start. It takes some time to become adept in traversing this challenge as it can be quite unsafe for the patients. Practicing in the presence of someone’s company is the best way to start. Once you get over the fear, you can easily climb without any supervision needed.
1.To go upstairs, place one crutch under an arm and use the handrail with the other arm for support.
2.Use your healthy leg for the first step and then bring forth your affected leg. Lastly, bring up your crutch alongside you.
3.Make sure that the tip of the crutch is completely on the stair to decrease the chance of slipping. If you do not use the rails, there is a risk of falling.
1.It is the same as going upstairs but a lot more precaution must be used. Place a crutch under one arm and use the handrail with the other arm.
2.For support, lower the crutch down to the step below and move your injured leg down, and bring your stronger leg down in the last.
3.Lastly, do not forget to position the crutch on the stair completely to avoid any unfortunate circumstances.