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Using crutches

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Description

It is important to start walking as soon as you can after your surgery. But you will need support for walking while your leg heals. Crutches may be a good choice after a leg injury or surgery if you only need a little help with balance and stability. Crutches are also useful when your leg is only a little weak or painful.

Talk to your health care provider. If you are having a lot of pain, weakness, or problems with balance. A walker may be a better option for you than crutches.

Crutch Basics

While you are moving around with crutches:

Rest your crutches upside down when you are not using them so that they do not fall down.

Walking and Turning

When you walk using crutches, you will move your crutches forward ahead of your weak leg.

  1. Place your crutches about 1 foot (30 centimeters) in front of you, slightly wider apart than your body.
  2. Lean on the handles of your crutches and move your body forward. Use the crutches for support. DO NOT step forward on your weak leg.
  3. Finish the step by swinging your strong leg forward.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 to move forward.
  5. Turn by pivoting on your strong leg, not your weak leg.

Go slowly. It may take a while to get used to this movement. Your provider will talk to you about how much weight you should put on your weak leg. Options include:

Sitting and Standing

To sit down:

To stand up:

Stairs

Avoid stairs until you are ready to use them. Before you can go up and down them on your feet, you can sit down and scoot up or down, one step at a time.

When you are ready to go up and down stairs on your feet, follow these steps. At first, be sure to practice them with help from someone to support you.

To go up stairs:

  1. Step up with your strong leg first.
  2. Bring the crutches up, one in each arm.
  3. Place your weight on the strong leg and then bring your weak leg up.

To go down stairs:

  1. Put your crutches on the step below first, one in each arm.
  2. Move your weak leg forward and down. Follow with your strong leg.
  3. If there is a handrail, you can hold onto it and hold both crutches on your other side in one hand. This may feel awkward. So be sure to go slowly until you are comfortable.

Safety Tips

Make changes around your house to prevent falls.

Check the tip or tips of your crutches daily and replace them if they are worn. You can get replacement tips at your medical supply store or local drugstore.

Use a small backpack, fanny pack, or shoulder bag to hold items that you need with you (such as your phone). This will keep your hands free while you are walking.

References

Edelstein J. Canes, crutches, and walkers. In: Webster JB, Murphy DP, eds. Atlas of Orthoses and Assistive Devices. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 36.

Meftah M, Ranawat AS, Ranawat AS, Caughran AT. Total hip replacement rehabilitation: progression and restrictions. In: Giangarra CE, Manske RC, eds. Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 66.

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Review Date: 5/13/2019  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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