Proper Use of Mobility Aids (Crutches, Canes, Walkers)
It is important to familiarize yourself with different types of mobility aids when dealing with an injury, chronic or acute, or other pathology that requires off-loading, non-weight bearing, or semi-weight bearing ambulation. Hopefully, you are given a proper tutorial on set-up and use before introducing these devices in your daily life. But if not, here are some useful tips.
The first setting to adjust is at the bottom of the crutch. Most crutches will have height indications (by foot and inch). It is best to use this setting as a reference, and not to use as the exact position; your setting may be slightly different than your actual height. When set properly, the height of the crutch should allow a bit of space between your armpit and the top cushion of the crutch when standing (approximately 2 inches).
Next is to position the handle. Proper position of this should be aligned with your wrist when your arms are relaxed at your side and standing tall. After setting this, and placing your hand on the handle, there should be a slight bend in your arm.
Match the second crutch settings to the first.
Using Your Crutches:
The first thing to remember is not to lean your armpits on the top of the pads. This could result in nerve damage in the arms and hands if done too long. With your hands on the handles, your weight should be held upright using the strength in your arms.
When using the crutches in a non-weight bearing scenario, you will want to act as though the crutches are taking place of your injured leg. Meaning you will take a ‘step’ with your crutches, making sure they contact the ground at the same time, and swing your trailing, injured leg after this. The opposite leg will step forward as normal.
When using your crutches in a semi-weight bearing scenario, you will want to act as though your crutches are a part of your injured leg. Meaning when you take a step forward with that leg, your crutches will move forward at the same time and contact the ground at the same time. This will allow controlling how much weight is being put on the injured leg. Again, make sure your unaffected leg goes through as normal a gait motion as possible.
The proper setting for a cane is like the setting you make to the handlebar height on crutches. While standing upright, and arms in a relaxed position at your side, the cane height should be set to approximately wrist level. That way when you place your hand on the handlebar, you should have a slight bend in your arm. We do this to prevent leaning too far onto your good side when using the cane (which would mean the cane is set too short), and to properly engage your arm and shoulder muscles when using the cane to reduce weight and pressure on your bad side.
Using Your Cane
The most important thing to remember when using a cane is the cane should be used with the hand/arm opposite to your bad side. We do this to take the pressure and weight off the bad side. Meaning as you’re walking, the cane and bad leg should move forward and contact the ground at the same time. This also helps with stability because you’re widening your base of support by moving your bad leg and cane as one.
A walker is set up the same as a cane and crutches. With your arms resting at your sides, the handlebar height of the walker should be set to wrist level. When you place your hands on the handlebars, your arms should have a slight bend to them.
Using Your Walker
From a seated position, your walker should be set up directly in front of you at a close distance. Push up on the armrests of the chair or on the bed to a standing position. You will immediately place your hands on the handlebars of the walker with a firm grip. As you move forward, your walker should be the first to move (only move a small amount to not overextend yourself). Followed by your weak/bad leg, and then your good side. You should move your bad side first so that you can take pressure off this side using the strength of your upper body through your grip on the handlebars of the walker.
Take a look at some of the other products used for non-weight bearing and semi-weight bearing situations…
Could you or a loved one benefit from a mobility aid? Contact us and get started on your path to wellness with Arthritis and Injury Care today!