Crutches get a bad rap. I am here to proclaim: I LIKE crutches. Obviously, if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t be using them at all. Since I am only able to use one foot to get around, I think crutches are, by far, the best way to do it. This isn’t my first time being tripedal. I had to use crutches about 7 years ago when I had a stress fracture. Yes, it was my right foot back then too—poor foot. I only had to use the crutches for about two weeks before I was able to amble around in just a boot. The worst part was I was in college and carrying around a heavy backpack whilst crutching from class to class can get tiring pretty quickly.
I’ve been on crutches for twelve weeks now. I’ve read many blogs where people curse their crutches and say they hurt their arms or they find them awkward. If they are hurting the underside of your arms, your armpits, you are crutching wrong. All of your weight should be on your hands, not your armpits. There are nerves in your underarms that can be damaged if you put pressure on them so do be careful of this. No need to cause more injury! I had to adjust the handles when I got home from the ER. They had them right in the middle of the five holes and I needed them to move up one peg. I found that when I first started crutching, the muscles in the heels of my hands got a little sore. This was to be expected, as with any muscle that you don’t use frequently.
I don’t find the crutches awkward. Yes, I have fallen, twice, and it sucked both times. The first time was when I was about two weeks into using them. I was leaning over picking something up and my crutch wasn’t secure. The other time was when I was vacuuming and didn’t realize the hose had wrapped around my crutch and I took myself out trying to reach further than I should have. This was particularly disturbing as it was exactly one week after my surgery and I banged my foot hard on the ground. It hurt very badly for the next two days and I was worried that I had re-injured myself. As luck would have it, I didn’t do any real damage to my foot. I did have a gigantic bruise on my left thigh and some nice bruising in the shape of my crutch on my left arm. Other than those two instances, when I was probably doing more than I should have, I haven’t really had problems with my crutches.
Another lesson I learned is to not crutch barefoot, at least not at first. About a week after having my crutches, I thought that I had done something terrible to my left foot. I had horrible pain in it when I would put any weight on it. Needless to say, this caused a bit of a meltdown as I imagined what the heck was I going to do with two injured feet. I figured out the problem was that I was crutching around barefoot. I would walk around barefoot most of the time at home before the accident. My left foot wasn’t used to being the sole supporter (see what I did there?) and I overworked it. I stayed off of it as much as I could for the next couple of days to rest it. After that, I put on a slipper with a hard sole and haven’t had any problems since.
Another complaint I have seen about my good friend, crutches, is that you can’t carry anything when you are crutching. I have found this isn’t true. I can carry a glass while crutching. It helps if it has a lid so the liquid it doesn’t splash over the sides. I can also carry a plate for a short distance—to get it from counter to counter. (Although I do lean a bit on my underarms so I try to make this only a few steps.) I carry the empty coffee pot and filter, one in each hand, across the kitchen when I make coffee. I can carry a book in each hand. I can also carry a bag or really anything else with a handle.
The way I usually do this is to hold the glass with my fingers and still balance the heel of my hand on the handle. If it is a book or something that doesn’t need to be held upright, I will grasp it with my fingers, smash it against the side of the crutch and hold it. Yes, I can only go short distances. Since I live by myself, I’ve had to get creative in order to stay hydrated, eat and generally do the things one needs to in order to survive.
Crutches and stairs aren’t great, I will agree with that. Going up them is less terrifying than going down. I have 15 stairs when I first enter my house to get to the main level and another 15 to get upstairs to my bedroom. How do I navigate these? I crawl—it’s much faster and safer than crutching. Fortunately, the stairs are carpeted although I do have hardwood at the top on the main floor. I have had to crawl up and down hardwood stairs and that is rather uncomfortable. To go down, I stand with my back to the stairs. I hold onto my crutches in my left hand and I bend my right leg back in an ‘L’ shape. I do a one legged squat with my left leg to get my right knee down to the floor. I put my left foot on the farthest stair away and then use my right knee to ‘walk’ down the stairs in a kind of sideways plank. I hold onto the crutches with my left hand and use my right hand to help get down the stairs. I do the same thing going up except I start facing the stairs.
My right knee has developed a callus. If you can’t do a one legged squat at the top of the stairs, it will probably be difficult to get up and down even with the support of the crutches. Fortunately, I was in pretty good shape before this accident so I haven’t had a strength problem getting up from the floor or sitting down using one leg by myself. I will say my left leg is in pretty great condition now.
I would suggest that everyone practice standing on one leg whenever you can. It’s a good way to gain strength and balance and add a little fun to your day. Besides, you never know when one of those evil curbs will decide to attack! It’s always good to be prepared. I used to do one-legged stints before I was injured. I hate sitting at the computer for long periods of time—it drives me batty. I would stand on one leg working at my computer for as long as it took to fatigue that leg and then switch to the other. Now I do not have the option of switching. When I first started, I could go about 15-20 before my leg would get tired. Now I can go around 45 minutes or longer, if necessary. My right leg is going to have to do some serious rehab to catch up with my left.
I will admit to a few downsides to crutches. The first is crutch dust of course!! Second, they are deadly when it is wet out. And last, crutching down stairs is scary and when I am fatigued there is more of a chance of getting tripped up and falling whether on stairs or wherever. I get fatigued more quickly going long distances on crutches than on the scooter. On the other hand, I like that I am able to work my body and do something that is weight bearing and challenging. I also like being able to figure out new ways to maneuver to do what I want. Plus, it’s always good to do what you fear.
Another tip—learn how to crutch sideways. You WILL have to do this if you go out anywhere. Also, when maneuvering doors, push open the door hard, quickly throw the base of your crutch in the closing door’s path to prop it open and then walk though. Pray to the crutch gods that the floor isn’t wet—so far, so good on that for me. If you think the floor may be wet or if you’re coming in from the rain, wait for someone to open the door for you if you can. The chances of you wiping out will be way less. Otherwise, wipe off the bottom of your crutches, avoid any wetness and hope for the best.
Here’s an off label use for crutches: they come in handy when I need to turn on the overhead fan and don’t want to get up. I just reach over with the crutch and flick on the light switch. I’ve also done this to turn on my TV and turn up my stereo receiver.
I went to a festival last weekend and I couldn’t decide if I should go with the crutches or the scooter. My very clever friend suggested that I take both. This was fantastic because I could scooter the long distances needed to get around the park and still keep up with everyone without getting totally exhausted the first 10 minutes. I could also go ‘off road’ with the crutches where the scooter couldn’t go. They both come in handy and I’m glad that I was able to borrow the scooter for longer adventures.
For the most part though, I prefer the crutches and will defend them to anyone who says they suck. They’ve made my life much more bearable than if I had to hop or crawl around everywhere—and I do a fair amount of crawling and hopping on one foot. MovNat would approve of that. The crutches up my activity level and for that I am also grateful. I guess it’s a good thing I have learned to love them since they have been my constant companions for the last twelve weeks and will be for at least the next six. I wonder if I am I alone in singing the praises of crutches. Does anyone else out there appreciate the power of the crutch?