Do You Need Crutches For a Sprained Ankle?

do-you-need-crutches-for-a-sprained-ankleIf you’ve sprained your ankle and are not comfortable putting weight on it, crutches may help you to walk without causing further injury.  However, you should only use crutches if you have good balance, strength, and endurance.

Types of Crutches

The most common crutches are axillary crutches that are used under the arms. Axillary crutches are made of either wood or aluminum.  The aluminum variety are lighter weight.  Another type of crutch is called the forearm crutch.  Forearm crutches are easier to use because of their design, thus improving stability and safety.  The third type of crutch is the hands-free crutch.

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This crutch allows you functional, hands-free mobility during your rehabilitation.  All crutches can be adjusted to accommodate your height.  Depending on the style of crutches you choose, there are often accessories available to improve their comfort.

General Safety Tips for Using Crutches

Using crutches when you are injured is not as easy as you may think.  It’s important to understand some simple principles of using crutches to make sure you are safe and do not cause yourself additional injuries.

First, make sure to look straight ahead and not at your feet when using crutches.  Your body tends to follow your eyes, so if you’re looking down, you’re more likely to fall down.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Simple items like rugs and cords could cause you to trip and fall.  The rubber tips on your crutches will help prevent slipping, but make sure they are in good condition.  If they become worn they are easily replaced.

The rubber tips are not made for slippery conditions so avoid wet floors, snow, and ice.  If you must go out in icy conditions, it is advisable to attach ice tips to your crutches.  Never use your crutches as an aid to help you stand up or sit down.  When standing or sitting, use both hands on the sitting surface to provide stability, but make sure your crutches are within reach.

If you must use stairs with your crutches, always lead with your stronger leg going up and your injured leg going down.  If you ever feel uncomfortable on your crutches, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

It’s important to adjust your crutches to your height.  Axillary crutches should be adjusted so that the tops are 1 to 1 ½ inches below your armpit.  The handles should be at hip level.

Forearm crutches should be adjusted so that you have a 30-degree bend in your elbow when you hold the handgrips.  The cuff should be 1-2 inches below the bend of the elbow.  Make sure all spring buttons are fully engaged in the adjustment holes.

How to Use Crutches

Handsfree crutches allow you to walk normally while taking the weight off the injured ankle, and they require no special instructions. The same walking instructions apply for both axillary crutches and forearm crutches.  When you are standing still, your crutches should be slightly in front of you, creating a triangle between the crutches and your feet.

Start with your elbows slightly bent, and keep the tops of your crutches about 3 inches away from your feet to prevent tripping.  To start walking, place the crutches about one foot in front of you.  Lean on the handles and move your body forward, using the crutches for support so you do not put weight on your injured ankle.  Finally, swing your strong leg forward.  Repeat these steps and you are on your way to walking with crutches.

Disadvantages of Crutches

The biggest disadvantage of crutches is the potential to cause further injury due to the instability they can create.  Crutches will slow you down and make it difficult to carry anything with you in your hands.  It is also argued by some doctors that the use of crutches delays the healing process because it reduces blood flow to the injury.

Alternatives to Crutches

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle and potential hazards of crutches, you could try the H.E.M system to heal your sprained ankle quickly. H.E.M. is a three-step system that you can use to rehabilitate your ankle back to full health without the use of braces, crutches or athletic tape.

Typical results are pain-free walking within one week.  There is also a significant increase in the strength and stability of your ankles making crutches unnecessary.  This three-step system is easy to do in only 30 minutes a day and can be done from your home for less than you would pay for physical therapy.

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