Sunday, December 03, 2017

Underarm and Forearm Crutches as Mobility Aids

Whether you have a chronic disability in your lower extremities or you sustained an injury to your lower-limbs, crutches are your go-to tools to help with your mobility. Research shows that strains and ankle sprains account for a majority (36%) of lower extremity injuries in the United States. Mobility aids are needed to facilitate ambulation while recovering from these type of injuries.

According to the University of California - Disability Statistics Center, 6.1 million people in the United States make use of devices, such as crutches, canes, and walkers to help with their mobility.

Crutches can facilitate your movement and ambulation by letting your upper body carry the weight of your lower limb. Physical movement while recovering from an injury can improve the blood circulation in your injured limb and speed up healing. It also helps in improving lung and kidney functions, thanks to better perfusion, and prevents the loss of calcium from your bones as a result of prolonged immobility.

Crutches can also help you do some tasks on your own. In fact, statistics show that compared to wheelchair users, the chance that a crutch user has in landing a job is more than double. It allows you to navigate to places where wheelchairs cannot.

There are several types of crutches you can choose from depending on your needs but the most commonly used are underarm crutches and forearm crutches.

Underarm crutches
An underarm crutch is also known as an axillary crutch. It is the most common type of crutch and is usually made of wood or aluminum.

Underarm crutches are commonly used in pairs. They can be easily adjusted to suit your height. When in a standing position, the shoulder rest (the topmost part of your crutches) should be placed 1-2 inches below your armpit. You should push yourself upright with your hand holding the handgrip. The handgrip must be at the level of your hips so that your arms are slightly flexed at 30°.

When using underarm crutches, you should never let your underarms support your weight by resting them on the shoulder rest. Doing so might compress the blood vessels and nerves in your armpits.

Crutch paralysis is a condition caused by chronic compression of the radial nerve located in your armpit as a result of improper use of crutches. To prevent this from happening, you should ensure that the distance between your shoulder rest and your armpit is maintained at 1-2 inches. The shoulder rest must also have adequate cushioning and padding. People with crutch paralysis have a good chance to recover after physical therapy and axillary crutch discontinuation.

Forearm crutches
A forearm crutch is also known as an elbow crutch or a Lofstrand crutch. It is used to maintain balance and stability. It is generally lightweight and made of aluminum material. The defining feature of a forearm crutch is its adjustable arm cuff, where you should insert your arm before gripping the handgrip, that adds additional support to the user.

Forearm crutches are popular in Europe. In the United States, however, forearm crutches are generally used by people with chronic ailments or disabilities. There is quite a number of options on the list of the top forearm crutches on the market you could choose from, each having features to suit your needs.

When using forearm crutches, your elbow should be flexed at 15-30° to maximize your upper body strength and allow you to bear more weight. When standing upright, the rubber tip of your crutch must be positioned 6 inches in front and 2-4 inches outside of your foot. The arm cuffs should be snug, comfortable, and should secure your forearm 1-1.5 inches below your elbow.

In forearm crutch users, the pressure and weight of your lower limb are being carried by your ulna (one of the two bones in your forearm). To prevent secondary ailments attributed to long-term use of forearm crutches such as pain and injuries, make sure that you are using an arm cuff that is properly sized for your forearm.

Home Safety Tips for Crutch Users
Balance and mobility problems following an injury are the reasons why people are using crutches for support. For these reasons, home safety is important to prevent them from sustaining injuries secondary to slips and falls.
  • Keep your everyday items within reach
  • Remove clutter, clean up food spills, and roll up trailing electrical cords
  • Remove slipping hazards from your bathroom by installing grab bars, handheld showers, and non-slip bath mats
  •  Keep your house well-lit
  • Create a clear pathway by rearranging your pieces of furniture
Crutches are great aids for mobility that let you maneuver on your own. You can ask your healthcare provider for assistance and demonstration on the proper use of this equipment to prevent you from developing another complication.

This is a guest blog entry.

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