I spent the best part of 2 years on crutches after a venom bite and an unrelated fall. Thankfully, I’ve made a full recovery. With all that time on crutches, I built up some tips/tricks. Since then, whenever I see someone on the street who is obviously new-to-crutches, I strike up a casual conversation about how long I spent on crutches, empathize about the various awkward realities of crutches and generally try to be encouraging. If things feel ok, then I ask if its ok to share some tips I learned from my time on crutches. This happened recently with someone in the office, and afterwards, they encouraged me to blog this in case it is helpful to anyone reading who is also newly on crutches.
1) buy fingerless cycling gloves
Sore hands from pressure of the crutch handle is a problem. Some people prefer to pad/wrap the crutch handle, but I found this still left lots of friction / movement-under-pressure while using crutches. Over time this friction led to blisters on the palm of your hands, between your thumb and first finger – exactly the spot that you needed to press your weight on while using crutches. Painful.
Padded cycling gloves solved this problem perfectly. These are padded in exactly the right area… between the base-of-thumb and forefinger…and they’re cheap! Being fingerless, I could still type and answer my cellphone with them on. And the mesh backing kept my hands from getting too hot while wearing them indoors all the time, so I could just easily leave them on all day.
2) be aware of possible nerve damage to armpits
If you get sore hands (see above), its easy to then start resting your full weight on your armpits on the top of the crutches. Every now and then is typically ok. However, its easy to get into the habit of resting your full weight on your armpits on the crutches. Dont. Leaning your weight on your armpits on your crutches can lead to nerve damage in your armpits, which will seriously limit future use of your arms and hands.
From wikipedia, “A condition known as crutch paralysis, or crutch palsy can arise from pressure on nerves in the armpit, or axilla. Specifically, the brachial plexus in the axilla is often damaged from the pressure of a crutch…In these cases the radial is the nerve most frequently implicated; the ulnar nerve suffers next in frequency”. More details are also at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axillary_nerve.
Instead of resting your bodyweight on your armpits on the top of your crutches, use your arms to hold up your body weight. As a fulcrum point, squeeze in your arms to pin the top of the crutch between your upperarm and ribs – without contact to your armpit. Then try to move around the room. I found my arms were not use to this much work and quickly got tired. Start with short distances. Over time, build up to longer sustained use of crutches as your arms build up strength.
On the bright side: when I finally came off crutches, my arms were in the best shape ever. And I had no nerve damage in my arms and hands!
3) buy a jogger fanny pack, specifically one that has holders for full-size water bottles.
One of my most frustrating episodes soon after being on crutches was my first attempt to “have a normal day at home”, by myself, making my own coffee and hoping to sit at the computer with my leg elevated. It was tricky to wrangle the machine/filter/coffee/water while on crutches, but the brew smelled great – and the first sip was wonderful.
Success! If I can make my own coffee, how bad can life be?! Then I realized I had no way of getting from the kitchen to the chair, on crutches, while holding my prized mug of coffee. Foiled!
Weeks later, I had a brainwave. The water bottle holders in fanny packs is the same diameter as most car coffee travel mugs. Coffee in a travel mug in a fanny pack doesn’t spill while you are on crutches.
Make coffee. Pour into travel mug. Put travel mug into fanny-pack-bottle-holder. Use crutches to get to chair. Sit. Drink coffee from travel mug. Rejoice.
ps: While you have this fanny pack, you might as well also pack it with:
- house keys
Thats it. Hope those hints help someone out there… and of course, if you have other tips or hints, please email me or add them to comments below.