The proper use of crutches or a cane is easy to do, when you know how. Consider these typical scenarios:
Your child has just gotten hurt at a soccer game—sprained knee—so it is off to the Emergency Room. Everything looks ok on the x-ray but your youngster must keep weight off of the knee for a few days. Home you come with a pair of crutches.
The first thing to do when measuring crutch height is to have the person stand up straight with shoulders relaxed down. The top of the crutch should rest two fingers’ width down from the armpit. Adjusting this height is usually a simple matter of loosening two wing nuts at the bottom of the crutch and moving the center piece up or down.
The hand rest is also usually adjustable. The proper position of the hand rest allows the elbow to be bent about 15 degrees. Loosen and move the hand rest into the proper position and make sure both crutches are identical.
When walking, keep the injured leg between both crutches at all times.
Your elderly parent or grandparent, who is experiencing some unsteadiness due to a weakness in one leg, has been told by a doctor to pick up a cane at the local pharmacy. Maybe arthritis is causing right-sided hip pain. You pick up an adjustable cane or someone gives you a wooden cane to use. It is very important that you measure the cane and know which hand to use it in.
First, to properly measure a cane, have the person you are measuring it for stand with arms comfortably hanging down by the side. Turn the cane upside down (tip up). When the person’s elbow is slightly bent, the tip of the cane should come up to the crease of the person’s wrist (where the hand joins the forearm). If the cane is made of wood, take the tip off and mark this area with a line to cut the cane to size. Then replace the tip.
Always use the cane on the side opposite the weak leg. If, for example, a person’s right leg is weak or painful, the cane should be placed in the left hand. When walking, the cane and the weak leg should come forward together.
Going up and down stairs with crutches or a cane can also be a challenge. Just remember these two rules, and you should do well:
- Up with the good, down with the bad. In other words, when going up the stairs, always lead with the strong or pain free leg, and leave the cane or crutches behind to come up with the weak or painful leg.
- When going down the stairs, lead with the bad leg and crutches or cane, and then bring the good leg down to the step.
Always use a railing if it is handy, and place both crutches or the cane in the other hand.
Practice carefully and slowly. Ease of use will come soon enough.