How to Use Crutches, Canes, and Walkers


How to Use Crutches, Canes, and Walkers

Need an extra hand getting around? Consider a cane, crutches, or a walker as an option! If you have an injury, recently had leg, hip, or ankle surgery, have balance problems, or alterations in your ability to walk, an ambulatory aid may be of assistance.


With all assistive devices, it is important to have them fit properly. Your physician, physician’s assistant, certified athletic trainer, nurse, or physical therapist should be able to assist you with this process.


When using crutches, there should be a two inch space between your armpit and the top of the crutch. Elbows should be bent to thirty degrees when the crutches are positioned about two inches in front of your body and six inches out to the side of your body. It is also important to note that while using crutches, excessive pressure should not be applied to the armpits as it could cause altered sensation into the arms. Crutches allow for the option of using them as a pair or singularly. If utilizing two crutches to walk, move the crutches forward with the affected side, and swing the good leg through. With one crutch, place the crutch on the side opposite of the affected or injured side and walk as normal as possible with the affected side and the crutch moving together as a unit.


A cane should be adjusted so that the top of the cane is at the height of the wrist crease. The cane should be placed on the side opposite of the affected or injured side, and just as you do with a crutch, move the cane and the affected side as one. For climbing or ascending stairs, lead with the unaffected or healthy side, followed by the affected or injured side, and then finally the assistive device. For example, if your right leg is injured then support yourself with the crutches and bring your left leg up to the stair above. Then use this left leg to help bring the right one up. When going down or descending stairs, lead with the assistive device, followed by the affected or injured side, and lastly bring down the unaffected side. For example, with an injured right leg, place your crutches on the stair below and use your good left leg to lower your right leg down. For safety purposes, always ascend/descend one stair at a time; have another individual nearby for support; and if available, use the railing.


One final option for an assistive device is a walker. The nice thing about a walker is that it will assist in simulating your normal gait. If you have a two-wheeled or a four-wheeled walker, glide the assistive device forward as you walk. Be careful and mindful that the four-wheeled walker can slide away, so always utilize the brakes. This will provide you with balance stability and support. With a standard walker without wheels, pick up and move the walker forward, supporting your weight on the handles as you step forward. Never use the walker when ascending or descending stairs, instead use the railing to support you, or an elevator if available.


On all of your assistive devices, check the integrity of the rubber tips. If you notice that there is excessive wear and tear or damage due to use, replace the pieces. Always maintain good proper posture and stand up tall when using your assistive devices.

How to Use Crutches, Canes, and Walkers