Crutches and Crutch Gaits

Types of Crutches and Crutch Gaits


A crutch is a device used to aid movement by transferring the weight of your lower body to your upper body. It is used by people with an injury or weakness in their lower extremities secondary to an injury or a chronic disability.



According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), approximately 6.5 million people in the United States use assistive devices to help with their mobility. Your doctor determines which ambulation device you need to use, depending on your health problem.



Common types of Crutches


There are several types of crutches but the most commonly used are the underarm and forearm crutches.


1. Underarm crutches


Also known as an axilla crutch, an underarm crutch is usually used by patients who have temporary walking restrictions. It facilitates faster healing of a lower extremity following an injury through resting the affected area and limiting its movement.


Proper positioning of your body is important to use crutches effectively.


  • If you are only using one crutch, you should use it on the side of your good or uninjured leg.

  • When standing, the distance between your armpit and the shoulder rest (the top part of your crutches) should be 1-2 inches.

  • The handgrips of your crutches should be at the level of your hip.

  • Your elbows must be slightly bent when holding the handgrips.

  • Push your body up by letting your weight rest on your hands. Do not let your underarms rest on the shoulder rest and carry your body’s weight because this might cause some damage to the blood vessels and nerves in your underarms.


The shoulder rest of your crutches must have adequate padding to prevent injury to your armpits. When you let your underarm carry the weight of your body, you are putting too much pressure on your nerves; this can lead to nerve damage and put you at risk of suffering from crutch paralysis or crutch palsy. Click this link to learn more



2. Forearm crutches


A forearm crutch is also known as an elbow crutch. It is another tool to aid mobility by transferring the weight from the injured foot or leg to the upper extremities. Forearm crutches are typically made of plastic or metal. To use this type of crutch, you need to insert your forearm in the cuff and grasp the hand grip. Forearm crutches are more commonly used for long-term disabilities while underarm crutches are for short-term use.


Types of Crutch Gaits



1. Four-point crutch gait


This gait is used when there is weakness or injury in both legs. It provides support and stability to allow slow ambulation. The walking sequence for the four-point crutch gait is done by advancing the left crutch forward, followed by the right foot, the right crutch, and the left foot.


2. Three-point crutch gait


This gait is used when one of your leg or foot cannot bear your body weight due to pain, injury or as a means to facilitate faster recovery. The three-point gait removes all weight from the affected extremity. To do this gait, you have to move the injured leg and both crutches forward at the same time. Then, step forward with your good leg with your arms and crutches carrying your body weight.


3. Two-point crutch gait


This crutch gait is used when there is poor coordination or weakness in both lower extremities. The sequence is slightly difficult to learn but when it comes to ambulation, using two-point gait is faster than four-point gait. The sequence is just like normal walking, wherein you advance your left foot and your right crutch (instead of your right arm) forward, followed by your right foot and your left crutch (instead of your left arm), and repeat.


4. Swing-through crutch gait


This gait has the fastest sequence of all five. However, it requires energy and a considerable amount of upper body strength. The swing-through gait is used when both of your legs cannot bear your full body weight. To do this gait, move both of your crutches forward at the same time, then (with your body weight in both arms) lift your legs off the ground, swing forward, and land a little past the level of your crutches.


5. Swing-to crutch gait


This crutch gait is used by patients who have weakness in both legs. It is easier to learn but, like the swing-through gait, it also requires upper body strength. To do the swing-to gait, let your body weight rest on your legs, move your crutches forward at the same time, then swing both legs to the level of your crutches while leaning forward a little.


If you are not sure which gait to use and how to do them, you can consult your healthcare provider to give you demonstration and assistance.


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