Skip to Content
Home > Health Information > Health Library > Using Crutches
A walking aid—a walker, crutches, or a cane—helps substitute for a decrease in strength, range of motion, joint stability, coordination, or endurance. It can also reduce the stress on a painful joint or limb. Using a walking aid can help you be more safe and independent in your daily activities.
Almost everyone has used a walking aid at some time, even if it was just playing around with crutches that belonged to someone else. As a result, most people think they know how to use this equipment. But there are some simple principles that will make using your walking aid easier and safer.
Crutches allow you to take some or all the weight off of one leg. They can also be used as an added support if you have some injury or condition of both legs. Your doctor will recommend crutches only if you have good balance, strength, and endurance.
Most people use axillary crutches, which go up under the arms. If you are going to use crutches for an extended period, your doctor may recommend crutches that clip around your forearms. The same walking instructions will work for either kind of crutches.
Note that when you are standing still with your crutches, they should be slightly in front of you, so the crutches and your feet form a triangle. Hold the crutches close enough to your body so you can push straight down on them, but leave room between the crutches for your body to pass through. Do not rest your underarms on the tops of your crutches, because you could damage a nerve that goes under your arm.
Be sure your crutches fit you. When you stand up in your normal posture, there should be space for two or three fingers between the top of the crutch and your underarm. When you let your hands hang down, the hand grips should be at your wrists. When you put your hands on the hand grips, your elbows should be slightly bent.
When you are confident using the crutches, you can move the crutches and your injured leg at the same time, then push straight down on the crutches as you step past the crutches with your strong leg, as you would in normal walking.
If you need to keep all the weight off the injured leg:
Try this first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.
If the stairs have a good sturdy banister, you can hold the banister with one hand. Put both crutches together and use them with the other hand. If there is no banister or you do not think the banister is sturdy enough, use the crutches normally, holding one in each hand.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Current as ofSeptember 20, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineJoan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Current as of:
September 20, 2018
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
See important information from Billings Clinic on Non-discrimination and Interpreter Services.
Billings Clinic is proud to be an equal opportunity/affirmative action (EOE/AA) e-verify employer.