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How to use crutches


Why do I need to use crutches?

The most common reasons are:

  • to help with balance by spreading weight over a wider area;
  • to limit how much weight you put on your leg (weight bearing);
  • to relieve pain;
  • to give support when muscles are weak;
  • to keep you safe when there is loss of feeling in the leg; and
  • to help your body heal.

The two main types of crutches are axillary (placed under your arms) and forearm. Forearm crutches are usually the best choice for children. Forearm crutches do not put pressure on nerves and blood vessels under the arm that could damage them. Forearm crutches have a flexible cuff that surrounds the forearm just below the elbow. This helps to reduce arm strain and gives the user more independence. For example, with forearm crutches, you will be able to open a door without setting the crutches down first.

Do the crutches fit?

Stand straight with the crutches 2 inches in front of your feet and about 6 inches out to the side. Be sure to wear shoes, and relax your shoulders. The crutches fit if:

  • the cuff is 1-1 1/2 inches below your elbow;
  • your arms bend slightly at the elbow when your hands are on the handgrips; and
  • your wrists are even with the handgrips when your arms hang at your sides.


  • If your crutches don't feel right, ask your therapist to check the fit.
  • Use nonskid rubber tips to keep from slipping. Change tips that look worn. Use the large tips to increase safety.
  • Do not use crutches that do not match or are too short. They can cause back pain and falls.
  • Watch out for wet surfaces and objects in your way. These can cause falls.

Walking with your crutches

To use your crutches, you need to learn a new gait, or way to walk. Your doctor or therapist will tell you how much weight you can put on your leg. Balance, coordination, strength and pain will also be factors in choosing the best gait pattern for you.


This pattern will be recommended if one of your legs should not touch the floor. Here's how to do it.

  1. Put all of your weight on the uninvolved leg.
  2. Move both crutches forward about 12 inches. If you prefer, you can move the crutches one at a time, but it will be slower.
  3. Shift your weight onto the crutches.
  4. Straighten your elbows.
  5. Lift your uninvolved foot and swing your body up to the crutches. As you get stronger and more confident with crutches, you may be able to swing past the crutches.
  6. Repeat the cycle.

Partial weightbearing

  1. Move both crutches and your involved leg forward about 12 inches. Shift most of your weight onto the crutches with just a little weight on the involved leg.
  2. Bring your opposite leg forward.
  3. Repeat the cycle.

Do not walk on your toes. Be sure to keep your feet flat.

Full weightbearing

This pattern gives a stable gait and is used when balance or strength is affected.

  1. Stand with your weight equally on both legs and both crutches.
  2. Move the left crutch forward.
  3. Move the right leg forward.
  4. Move the right crutch forward.
  5. Move the left leg forward.
  6. Repeat the cycle of left crutch, right leg, right crutch, left leg

Going up stairs if you can put weight on your leg

  1. Get close to the step.
  2. Shift your weight onto your crutches and your involved leg. Then, step up with your uninvolved leg.
  3. Follow with your involved leg and then your crutches.
  4. Repeat cycle until you are at the top of the stairs.

Going down stairs if you can put weight on your leg

  1. Get close to the edge of the step
  2. Put your crutches on the step below first.
  3. Step down with your involved leg
  4. Shift weight to crutches. Then, follow with your uninvolved leg.

Repeat cycle until you are at the bottom of the stairs.

If you cannot bear weight on your involved leg, then follow the above guidelines for going up and down stairs, but do not place any weight on your involved leg. You will use the crutches and your uninvolved leg to hop up and down each step.


If you have questions about using crutches, call Rehabilitation Services at 595-3621. If you are inside the hospital, dial 3621. If you are outside the Memphis area, call toll-free 1-866-2ST-JUDE (1-866-278-5833), extension 3621.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).