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Crutches

What Is the History of Crutches?

Patient Comments

Since antiquity humans have fashioned support devices to hold themselves up when they became sick or injured. Support device use dates back to 2830 BC. A carving on the entrance of an Egyptian tomb depicts a figure leaning on a crutch-like staff.

Crutch design has evolved from the basic "T" used by Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol to lightweight aluminum braces with ice-gripping tips or energy-storing tips that function as shock absorbers and are slip resistant.

For lower-limb injuries such as a broken leg, broken ankle, sprained ankle, knee injuries, and other injuries, as well as after surgery on the leg, knee, ankle, or foot, crutches remain useful today to decrease discomfort, reduce recovery time, and assist walking. Often when you get a cast put on your leg or foot you will be required to use crutches for a period of time. Crutches may also be used by amputees, and people with other disabilities that make walking difficult.

What Is the Function of Crutches?

A crutch must do two things: reduce weight load on one of your legs and broaden your support base to improve your balance and stability. The support also should assist upright movement and transmit sensory cues through the hands. A crutch allows people with paralysis or other disabilities the benefits of upright posture and lets them maneuver in places they cannot go with a wheelchair.

A crutch becomes necessary when a person cannot walk or walks with extreme difficulty. Any person with leg or foot pain or injury, weak muscles, or an unstable gait may benefit from using a crutch or crutches. Regaining upright body movement aids circulation, assists kidney and lung functions, and helps prevent calcium loss from your bones.

Crutches shift the force of upright movement from your legs to your upper body. You must have sufficient arm strength, balance, and coordination to use them effectively.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Crutches:

Crutches - Experience

Please describe your experience with crutches.

Treating a Broken Foot

Treatment for a broken bone in the foot depends on which bone is broken and how it is broken. Some broken bones in the foot can be treated with crutches and flat-bottom shoes, others require splints or casts or boots, and still others require surgery to repair the bones.

Crutches are used to help the injured person walk when the foot is broken.

  • When walking using crutches it is important that they fit properly and that you use them correctly. Your doctor should adjust your crutches to fit you and show you how to use them.
  • When using crutches, put your weight on your arms and hands. Do not put your weight on your underarms (armpits). This could hurt the nerves in your underarms.
  • To avoid falling, use your crutches only on firm ground.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Assistive Devices to Improve Independence »

Assistive devices to improve independence can be classified as follows:

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