Health libraryBack to health library
Give yourself a leg up
Crutches are a good tool to help you heal after an injury or surgery. Here's how to use them safely to help get yourself back on your feet.
Crutches can help you move around if you have an injured leg. But it's important to use them correctly.
Keep your eyes up:
Look forward when you're walking, not down at your feet.
Adjust the height:
The tops of the crutches should be 1 to 2 inches below your armpits while you're standing up straight.
Use your hands:
Let your hands, not your armpits, carry your weight. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the nerves and blood vessels in your underarms.
Put your handles at your hips:
The handles of your crutches should be at hip level. Your elbows should bend slightly when you hold them.
Keep your distance:
Keep the tips of your crutches about 3 inches away from your feet so that they don't trip you.
Where the right shoes:
Choose footwear that fits well. Avoid heels.
How to walk
1. Stand on your strong leg, and place both crutches about 1 foot in front of you, angled slightly wider than your body.
2. Move your weak leg forward while shifting your weight to your crutches.
3. With your weight on the crutches, move your strong leg forward. Repeat these steps.
Go slowly. It may take a while to get used to walking with crutches.
How to go up stairs
1. Step up with your strong leg first.
2. Bring the crutches up together to the first step.
3. Place your weight on your strong leg and bring your weak leg up to join.
How to go down stairs
1. Lower your crutches together onto the step below.
2. Move your weak keg forward and down.
3. Follow with your strong leg.
Feeling unsteady? Sit down, and slide up and down the stairs with your crutches beside you.
How to sit down
1. Line yourself up so the front of the chair touches the back of your leg.
2. Place both crutches in 1 hand, and hold the handgrips.
3. Using the crutches for stability on 1 side and an armrest or the chair seat on the other, slowly sit down.
How to stand up
1. Move to the front of your seat, and place both crutches in 1 hand.
2. Push yourself up onto your strong leg, using the crutches, the chair or both for balance.
3. Stand on your strong leg while you place your crutches.
Don't hesitate to ask for a helping hand instead of using the chair for support.
Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons; National Institutes of Health
Subscribe to This Week in Health to get the latest health news delivered to your inbox.