Getting a pair of crutches, post-injury is something a lot of people look forward to. After being stuck in bed or in the house, crutches come to us wrapped in opportunity – opportunity to move around again, to go out and see your friends to resume doing the things that you enjoy the most. But, there’s also a downside to that gift that is less visible.
Yes, crutches can hurt you. And here are the top five ways they can do that:
- Skin irritation: One of the most common side affects of using crutches is that the chaffing and rubbing of the crutch saddle in the axilla (underarm) can cause skin irritation.
- Soreness or bruised ribs: The ongoing pressure of the crutch saddle against your ribs can cause armpit soreness and bruised ribs.
- Nerve damage: Using a traditional pair of crutches for an extended length of time can put significant pressure on the axilla (underarm) from the crutch saddle. Over time, this pressure can cause nerve damage, and in some cases, lead to crutch palsy (compressive neuropathy) of the brachial plexus, ulnar nerve.
- Wrist/hand injuries: Upper extremity stress can contribute to a number of conditions: wrist pain and soreness, carpal tunnel syndrome, calloused or blistered hands, shoulder fatigue or discomfort or cardiac arrest in patients with heart disease.
- Arterial damage: Adding significant pressure on the arteries in axilla (underarm) from excessive weight bearing on a crutch saddle can cause damage in your arteries or aneurysms, which may require surgical repair (bypass, angioplasty) or amputation.
While crutches may seem like a temporary aid for a temporary period in your life, the reality is that they can be a critical component of your rehabilitation, so think carefully about the style of crutch that you choose (particularly if you will be using them for an extended period of time) and to make sure you get education in how to use them properly. It could make the difference in ensuring that your road to recovery has an end in sight.