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SUESMAN

Crutches - Forearm vs Underarm

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Hi All

Having posted my first question to members (titled: Funding for private leg) on the introductions board I assume protocol dictates that any other topics I wish to discuss should be posted here, so here goes.

For the benefit of those who haven’t read the above referenced thread my partner of 8 months (Sue) has been a RAK for 5 years now. Because of problems getting a functional prosthesis she has consigned herself to using a wheelchair and whilst (obviously) not being happy with this, cites a couple of nasty falls as the reason why she doesn’t like using crutches.

It’s transpired that these falls were as a result of a family member and full time crutch user coaching her into over zealous attempts at ‘Swinging’ (as Sue terms it) too soon plus, from what she’s told me, I also blame her physio at the limb centre for not coaching her better, but that’s by the by.

Personally I feel that becoming more confident and proficient on crutches would:

a) Give her remaining leg much needed exercise.

b) Vastly improve her mobility for short distances or where steps are involved.

c) Restore some self esteem i.e. not having to look up at everyone all the time.

As someone who was forced a few years back to use crutches for 6 weeks due to a leg injury, I felt sufficiently qualified to coach and gently ease her back onto them. In fairness she progressed from the first (clearly terror filled) hops to quite a smooth action pretty quickly. But after a few paces (for want of a better word), it’s as if she hits a brick wall. She tenses up then quickly develops cramping pains in her thigh/buttock and needs to collapse into a convenient chair.

At first I put this down to largely unused muscles being shocked back into action. But now I’m wondering whether it’s down to memories of the falls and the fact that she doesn’t feel stable on the forearm, closed cuff crutches she’s using.

I know there are conflicting views re forearm vs. underarm crutches and that here in the UK the NHS no longer issue underarm on grounds that they can damage nerves in the armpit – though I can’t help but wonder whether them not having to buy both types also figures in that decision.

So guys and girls, I’d value some input. Do underarm give more stability than forearm? A pair of lightweight Axilla ‘Red Dot’ aluminium underarms seems to be around £25, no money at all. But I’d hate to see them gathering dust in the cupboard.

Sorry for the ‘War & Peace’ length post.

SUESMAN(Dave)

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Hi Suesman,

I prefer to use the forearm crutches. I purchased mine used at a goodwill store. I bought them probably 20 years ago and I keep them in thecloset and when I need them there they are. I like them better because my underarms don't get too sore and you can carry things with them too if you put things in a plastic grocery bag with hand holes.

I hope this helps. You can get them used at a goodwill store. Jerry

P.S. tell her to scoot up and down steps on her fanny, that way she won't fall down the stairs

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Howdy Suesman!

I like to forearm crutches also. I use mine almost nightly, since I always seem to forget to use the bathroom before taking my leg off for the night. :tongue:

As to the cramping, that sounds more like muscle fatigue than improper use. I was only down for 3 months after my accident and it took a good while to get up and mobile. Thank goodness my leg came fairly quickly so I could work on that.

Hope this helps.

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Hi Dave and Sue,

A couple of points that I would like to make, I use the forearm crutches however I did get hold of a set of underarm type and gave them a go, the forearm crutches were clear winners for me, However get your good lady a set afer all £25 is nothing in the grand scheme of things and most importantly let Sue decided on what she wants regardless of what every body thinks.

Another big point I would like to make a few months before I had my accident and lost my leg I was on crutches and believe me using crutches when you have a leg missing is totally different in balance, weight shifting, swinging or hopping through and most importantly your confidence (I haven’t written that very well but you get the idea) so please believe me when I say you have no realistic idea of what its like despite hobbling around on crutches for a few weeks .( That’s not a dig at you but I think that it is something that needs to be pointed out)

As for the cramping pain I would like to suggest what I do, I go to a sports physo for a glorified massage and get her to work out all the aches pains cramps knots and generally loosen up all my tightly wound muscles .

My physo has me screaming ,cursing, laughing & giggling like a little baby I come out of her office (torture chamber) a broken man every time smelling like a tarts boudoir and aching all over however the next day im like an 18 year old again no aches or pains and I even get a lot more flexibility back again . (Well worth the £22).

Falls, no great words of wisdom on this, I believe we all have had them at one time or another, I fell on my first day out of hospital and split my stump wide open and so back to the A & E to get it stitched up again, I used it as a “wake up call”.

Sooner or later you will have a fall I personally believe that now for me the fear of falling is worse than the actual fall (if that makes sense)

I have read your early post about Sue’s badly fitting limbs and would just like to say I hope that sue gets the funding and gets a comfortable limb that she can get around in , she deserves it, and so do you ,

Take care Mick

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fivestringcooper, Trailmaster Toby & mick,

Thanks to each of you for your replies. Though none of you have said which if either are more stable it seems all of you prefer the forearm and as that was the type I used I think I can see why.

However, as you pointed out Mick, I can't truly understand what Sue experiences on crutches - she too has pointed out the differnces of using cruthes with one leg instead of two. So I'm going to get the underarms and let her decide. Worst case scenario we end up with something to hang coats over in the cupboard.

Thanks again

SUESMAN (Dave)

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I've used crutches for many years and now prefer to use forearm crutches.

years ago they would only give out underarm crutches because forearm crutches are not designed to take full body weight, so what ever you but make sure they are the correct ones, ie designed to take a persons full body weight.

By the way when I was taught to use underarm crutches I was told to take the weight on my hands, not under my arms, the idea is that yoy use your upper arms to grip the crutches to your body whilst taking the weight on your hands.

I agree with Mick, let Sue choose which she prefers, why don't you hire a pair of forarm crutches for her to try?

Using crutches of any kind is a confidence thing, especially hard if someone has had a fall.

I also use anti slip tips called Tornado ferruls. Of course they are not fool proof but far better than the standard tips.

Good luck

Ps....which part of the country are you in?

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Hi Lynne

Thanks for your input. Sue already has a pair of forearm crutches and they can take my weight no problem, so that's not an issue. As stated in my previous post, I will be taking Micks advise and ordering a pair of aluminium underarms for Sue. At £25ish if she can't get on with them it's hardly going to break the bank. If they turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread then they will (I'm sure), greatly enhance her enjoyment of our holiday in a weeks time and taking both pairs with us won't be a problem.

The answer to your PS by the way is North Wales.

Thanks again

SUESMAN (Dave)

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This has been an interesting discussion to me. I was issued underarm crutches by my HMO, and was given three brief "training sessions" on them following three different surgeries...the last of those surgeries being my amputation. I was NEVER any good on them, but I was particularly hopeless following my amp...just knowing that I only actually HAD one leg was unnerving, to say nothing about the weight and balance problems. I wound up never actually using crutches...instead, I use a walker (frame-style) when I'm one-legged, and I "hop" on that. Either that or a wheelchair...I'm MUCH better at transfers than I've ever been on crutches!

I've never tried forearm crutches...but I might do so after reading this thread. A pair of crutches sounds so much more convenient than my walker or wheelchair, especially in the middle of the night. Renting a pair sounds like a good way to "try out" the forearm crutches............. :unsure: and it would be quicker than actually donning my leg for a nighttime trip!

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