How to Make Crutches More Comfortable: The Complete Guide
You lost your footing, or, worse yet, you were in an accident. No matter how it happened, ending up on crutches is no fun. Plus, did you know you can actually sustain more injuries from the very crutches that should help you heal?
How do you make crutches more comfortable? You can modify the crutches to make them more comfortable. You can also learn specifically how to use crutches so you do not further injure yourself, or you can look for a crutches alternative.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to make crutches more comfortable.
How to Make Crutches More Comfortable
You're already uncomfortable with your injuries. To soothe yourself, you need to make your recovery as the least uncomfortable as possible. Start with the cushioning.
Learn how to make crutches comfortable by thinking about where the most pressure will be when you're using them. Most crutches will have some kind of hand and armpit cushioning. Usually, that type of cushion for crutches is not enough, though.
You're going to have to have some DIY crutch padding to make yourself more comfortable.
Dig into your drawers or closets at home for some old towels and duct tape. While these two tools don't look the most fashionable, they're the most practical DIY crutch pads in the world.
Spread out the old towel or small blanket. Fold it so that it is slightly wider than the uppermost cushion of the crutch. Then start wrapping.
Wrap the towel around the top of the crutch. Then pull out the duct tape and wrap that around the towel to secure it.
Test out the crutch to make sure your padding stays put. You do not want any padding to shift or roll while you're attempting to maneuver with your crutches.
At best, padding that moves will make crutches even more uncomfortable. At worst, they could increase your risk of falling and injuring yourself even more.
You do not have to resort to just wrapping the armpit pads with a towel and duct tape. You can try to go under the pads instead of that makes the crutches more comfortable. Sometimes a crutch cushion just will not work well to have something wrapped around.
Also, look at alternative crutch pads or commercial crutch pads. You may be able to find padding that works better than what the crutch currently has.
Armpits alone do not suffer when you use crutches. If you're using the crutches properly where the weight goes mostly on your hands, you will end up with tired and sore hands.
No one's hands are used to the amount of pressure you put on them when you're using crutches.
You can boost the padding on your hand grips similar to what you did with the armpit grips. Adding in more padding will make crutch use easier on your hands.
So again, find a small towel that is just slightly wider than the handgrip. Then fold it up so that you can place it on top of the grip. Wrap the entire grip in duct tape.
You always have the potential of the padding slipping or rolling on the handgrips. You need stable hand grips. If you do not have stable hand grips, you may end up falling with your handgrips rolling under your hands.
If you cannot create stable, alternative handgrips, then look into buying alternative grips that don't shift. Grips made specifically for your crutches will work the best if you cannot get some DIY grips to work.
Injuries Caused by Crutches
The discomfort of your crutches may stem from a poor fit. You need crutches that fit your body.
If you have crutches that are too tall, they will chafe your armpits. If you have crutches that are too low, then you back will ache, and you'll find yourself leaning forward constantly.
So even if you spend copious amounts of time and effort to create better cushioning, poorly fit crutches will still hurt. You could actually end up with further injuries with crutches that do not fit well.
For example, crutch pads that are too tall for you will dig into your armpits. They could actually bruise the tissue and end up with nerve damage.
In fact, you can injure the nerve endings found in your crutches when those armpit pads dig into your armpits.
The end result is something called "crutch paralysis." This temporary paralysis occurs when crutches damage your nerve endings.
Skin is the largest organ in your body. It can weight up to 20 pounds, and it's the one organ we can injure the most quickly. It also heals the fastest.
Anytime a foreign material rubs against you're skin, you're risking skin irritation. That irritation can lead to some long-term effects like idiopathic eczema and even infections if you do not care for the skin.
Crutches can cause irritation on your hands and your armpits if you do not care for your skin or if the crutches do not fit properly.
You probably are using crutches because you fell or were injured in an accident. Ironically, using crutches can lead to subsequent falls and secondary injuries.
Crutches are tricky. They have these rubber feet that are supposed to stay put. But if you're walking on a slippery or icy surface, a crutch can easily slip out from under you and cause you more injuries.
You could also re-injure what you're trying to protect. When you use crutches, you're attempting to avoid putting weight on a limb. You're protecting it.
When a crutch unexpectedly slips out from under you, your body instinctively puts weight on that limb you're trying to protect. You can also trip when your crutch catches on a cord or when you fail to navigate stairs smoothly. Crutches carry their own risks with them.
Crutches aren't natural. You don't practice with them, and you do not use them until you have to. Thus your body has to acclimate to the new muscle groups you're not demanding work from.
After a day on crutches, you might notice pain in places where you're not injured. Your shoulders, arms, and even back will begin to hurt. You must engage different muscles than you need for walking when you use crutches.
Your neck, shoulder, back, and even elbows might hurt as a result of using crutches, making them overall incredibly uncomfortable.
Adjust Crutches, Increase Comfort
No matter how much cushion you put on your crutches, if they are not the right size, you will not be comfortable.
Even before you begin wrapping the cushions with duct tape and towels, begin to look at your crutches and your height. Too tall of crutches will dig into your armpits, and too short will make your backache.
Most likely, when you purchased your crutches, you needed to tell the store your height. If you're a 6'4" man, the store would not give you crutches meant for a 5' woman.
Crutches in ranges, though. So even though you bought crutches for your specific height, you will need to adjust them just for you. They're most likely made for a range of a few inches.
Adjust your crutch first so it does not dig into your armpit as you're standing over it. Put the crutch foot a couple of inches in front of your feet. At this position, you should have about two inches between your armpit and the crutch pad.
Adjust the height accordingly so that it does not touch your armpit in this position but rather is a couple of inches below your armpit.
After you adjust the height of your crutch, look at where the handgrip is.
With your crutches are just a couple of inches below your armpits, grab the handgrips. Are your elbows slightly bent? Are your wrists straight and in line with your hips?
This is where your elbows and wrists should be. If your elbows are not slightly bent or your wrists are not in line with your hips, then adjust your handgrips so they line up like this.
Do You Really Need Crutches?
This is a controversial topic, but if your crutches are causing you discomfort or secondary injuries, ask yourself if you really need crutches. Perhaps you have other options other than crutches that will keep you moving and help you recover from your injury quickly.
The forearm crutch is technically still a crutch, but it does not require you to use your armpits. It protects that area. You have a cup that goes around your upper arm, and you lean on the handgrip of the crutch.
Forearm crutches work well if you have stronger forearms and do not need the stability of a traditional crutch.
This is a new type of crutch that does not require any use of your hand. Some people call it a peg-leg crutch. You can still move around comfortably and retain your mobility.
This type of crutch will strap to your thigh. Your lower leg is bent at a 90-degree angle, and your knee rests on a pad. Below the pad is a peg leg or what looks like the rest of a crutch.
So you basically walk on the lower crutch instead of your leg. This type of crutch works well if you have injured your foot or ankle and need to protect this joint. It does not work well if you have a knee injury since you're putting your weight on your knee.
If you're using a knee brace, you cannot use the hands-free crutch but rather have to use a different assist such as a traditional crutch or forearm crutch.
A knee scooter works similarly to a hands-free crutch except it has wheels rather than the peg under your knee. So if you injure your foot or your ankle, you can scoot around on the knee scooter.
Often the knee scooter will have handlebars you can hand onto and pivoting front wheels so you can "steer" your scooter.
Knee scooters have their limitations too, though. You cannot use them on gravel, dirt, or uneven surfaces. So they only work well on concrete or smooth floors.
If you have a severe injury and crutches cause you too much pain, a wheelchair is your best option. This is by far the most comfortable but also the most limiting alternative to crutches.
You still have to use your hands to get around, and not every environment is wheel-chair friendly. You may find yourself severely limited if you opt for a wheelchair.
You will also find yourself in the best position to recover. You will be completely off your feet and able to heal without any risk of putting weight on a limb by accident.
Experiment a little with using just one crutch. Sometimes your injury does not warrant two crutches. After all, some people even walk after they tear their ACL, a major ligament in your knee.
All of these alternatives can work to keep you more comfortable. Crutches are most likely your best option, though, since they give you the opportunity to put weight back on your injured limb incrementally. You can wean yourself off the crutches bit by bit, gradually putting weight on the limb.
As you work through your physical therapy exercises, you still want to keep those crutches handy just in case you need them.
Stay Safe, Stay Comfortable
As you can see, there are a handful of ways that show you how to make crutches more comfortable. A few towels and some duct tape can certainly help, but they're not your only options.
Before you begin to Macgyver the crutches your physical therapist sent home with you, always check with your doctor to see your best options. Maybe just a good knee brace is all you need to recover quickly, and you can keep the crutches as a moment.
As you recover from knee injuries, in particular, keep using mind. We can help you recover quickly with our state-of-the-art braces and icing kits. Take time to contact us so we can help you.