Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five Ways Your Crutches Could Be Hurting You

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.

While crutches can play a critical role in your rehabilitation or long-term mobility needs, their use can also initiate a domino effect -- new movement patterns start stressing new parts of your body, which can create new aches, pains and injuries. Before you know it, the very thing that is supposed to literally get back on your feet, can end up knocking you back down again.

Yes, crutches can hurt you. And here are the top five ways they can do that:

  1. 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.
  2. Soreness or bruised ribs: The ongoing pressure of the crutch saddle against your ribs can cause armpit soreness and bruised ribs.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

10 comments:

  1. Came here hoping for answers on how to keep from hurting myself on crutches and was disappointed.

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  2. If an individual’s upper body is strong, then he or she will be able to successfully use underarm crutches for everyday mobility.

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    1. Except if you are standing around for an extended period, you tend to rest more on the crutches, causing crutch palsy. Also, long-term use causes shoulder and neck issues and bad posture.

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  3. Used crutch now left arm paralyzed

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  4. I have bruised ribs and a knee injury, I find using crutches make my chest and ribs hurt more.

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  5. Im 16 and have used crutches for months at a time every year since i was 10 sometimes twice a year and now i have carpal tunnel. But heres the thing out of all the doctors i have seen over the year not one of them ever showed me how to use them corectly..

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    1. Find a physical therapist who can show you. They will watch you walking, standing still, standing while doing activities. They will analyze and help you correct your gait. I invested in a pair of custom crutches and that made a world of difference for me, especially mu hands and wrists, because of the hand grips. Your insurance may cover the purchase as durable medical equipment. I got the standard crutches from http://enablingtech.com/products/custom-titanium-superlite-forearm-crutch they were similar to but less expensive than Fetterman. I got the aluminum with the powder coated color option (lotsa colors to choose from). They also offer titanium. The benefits are a custom fit, a more solid feel (even though they are hollow tubes), and no button-adjuster holes to "egg out". They just give me more confidence. Also, a gel tip helps. You can get them for any kind of crutch or cane. HTH!

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  6. knee carts are the best alternative

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    1. Only if your problem is in your foot or ankle.

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