Many ways exist to ambulate after leg injuries that require no bearing weight on a leg. I am a firm believer that you should use the tool that works best for you and allows you
the most independence. I will discuss some of the options. However, the tried and true underarm crutches worked best for me. That doesn’t mean that they will work best for you. Over the past four and a half years, I used underarm crutches that I doctored. I found them to be my best option for comfort and independence. I became very adept in using them, and they never let me down. When I wanted to get up and go, I reach for my crutches, slip them under my arms, and am off with very little thought. If I encounter steps, a curve, a flight of stairs, or even snow, I don’t have any problems. They were easy to
throw in a car, and easy to retrieve from the car when I needed them.
Underarm crutches: They are most common in the U.S. and what doctors and hospitals issue. They have an underarm support that is intended as a support, not a platform, to carry the weight of your body. In my opinion, it is the quickest and easiest crutch to learn to use, making it the best choice for the short-term user. See my crutch instructions page to learn how to adjust and make them more comfortable.
Advantage: quicker learning curve Disadvantage: more cumbersome
Forearm crutches: They are the crutches that end at the elbow and have a cuff that holds and supports your arm. In the U.S., they are normally associated with someone who walks with crutches versus someone with a leg injury. In other countries, they are the standard crutches that are used.
Advantage: No risk of under arm nerve damage Disadvantage: a longer learning curve
♦ For full-time crutch users I recommend Sidestix– They are the forearm crutches I now use exclusively. I discuss Sidestix on my disability page.
Knee Walkers: They are the contraptions that look like a child’s scooter, only they have a platform that you kneel on with the injured leg. They only work for ankle and foot injuries. Some people love the knee walker for the obvious reason. Crutches are difficult to learn to use and cause pain to the arms and hands. The knee walker does allow you to transport items in the basket, solving the problem of not being able to carry anything with crutches. While I see times and places where the knee walker would have been covenant, it wasn’t for me overall. It’s definitely a good option for someone with arm or shoulder conditions.
- Keeps upper leg muscles from atrophying,
- Has a basket to carry items in, and
- Avoids the pain that crutches can cause.
- Can’t use on stairs or steps,
- Difficult to maneuver in tight spaces, bathrooms, small kitchens and around furniture,
- Needs to be folded up to be put into cars, which can be difficult to do when balancing on one leg,
- Causes a lot of pressure on the knee,
- Costly to buy or rent, and
- If it doesn’t steer, it’s impossible to navigate and tips over easily.
Wheelchair: A wheelchair is a very useful thing to have access to with a leg injury. I do not, however, recommend using it solely unless you have other medical reasons or other options don’t work. I do recommend using one at malls and stores as a way of getting out of the house. I still use an electric scooter for visiting amusement parks with my family. Plain and simple, it is easier and allows more enjoyment for my family.
Other Options: There are some other options out there. They can be found by doing a search for ‘hands-free crutches’. Once again, they are often very costly, only work for ankle and foot injuries, and aren’t always safe options. They require taking the time to use multiple straps to attach them to your thigh. To me, it appears to waste a lot of time. You would need to remove them every time you sat and then reattach them before getting up. What about sitting on the toilet? They also add more bulk to an already bulky cast or boot. These might be great options, but I would not want to be taking one of these contraptions on and off my leg every time I wanted to sit down or stand up. If you have a problem with an arm, hand, or shoulder that makes crutches unusable, these would be great alternatives to a wheelchair. If you have healthy arms, I say suck it up and learn to deal with the crutches. However, if they work for you, go for it.