Choosing something, when there are other options, is always a tough job. It becomes even tougher when the item is a necessity rather than something bought out of mere interest. Crutches come under the category of things that are always bought out of necessity. There are mainly two types of crutches available:
- Underarm crutches (also known as auxiliary crutches)
- Forearm crutches (also known as elbow crutches)
Whenever a person needs to buy crutches she may get confused as to which crutches does she need? Crutches are not the thing that can be chosen by tossing coin. You need to know the difference between the two types to know which one suits better to your physical condition.
And this is not for buying crutches for the first time only. If you are already using one type of crutches without actually knowing the reason why you are using that type; you should still consider knowing the difference between the two types.
Balance and Movement
The first thing to consider while choosing crutches for yourself is balance. Without a proper balance you cannot stand. Underarm or auxiliary crutches will suit you better if you do not have a good balance in your body. It is easier to make a balance and co-ordination while using underarm crutches. It requires more practice to master forearm crutches.
But, underarm crutches restrict your movement. You can have different gaits in different terrains while using forearm or elbow crutches. If you can balance yourself with forearm crutches then you can enjoy freedom of movement without tiring yourself much. Climbing up and down the stairs is also much easier with forearm crutches as compared to underarm crutches.
You may be living in a misconception that all you need is strong arms for walking majestically with crutches. Crutches actually take away body weights from legs to distribute it to whole upper body including arms and the entire torso. Though forearm crutches are more just in distributing the weight as compared to the underarm crutches.
Both types of crutches need a significant amount of upper-body strength but forearm crutches requires it more. Underarm crutches can help you walk even if you have slightly low upper-body strength. Forearm crutches need you to have strength in your arms and core muscles (abdominal and pelvic region muscles). You can and should strengthen your upper-body with the strength training and resistance exercises.
When it comes to posture, forearm crutches are better option than underarm crutches. They encourage the user to stand tall and straight. It is easier to walk with forearm crutches if your posture is good. So it works somewhat automatically in improving a person’s posture. A user of forearm crutches starts improving his posture for the sake of improving comfort in walking.
In contrast, most of the underarm crutch users are seen slouching over their crutches. A long term use of underarm crutches takes a toll on a person’s posture. Underarm crutches do have the loophole for cheating too. A person walking with underarm crutches may knowingly or unknowingly put all weight on crutches and her shoulders when feeling fatigued. They start dragging themselves instead of walking; this is not possible in forearm crutches.
Side-Effects on Body
As written earlier, forearm crutches are better in distributing weight equitably to the whole upper body. This makes forearm crutches a more comfortable option as they do not put strain on any part of the body. You can walk for longer period more comfortably and forearm crutches do not put any side-effect on body even after very long period of using them continuously.
Underarm crutches on the other hand put pressure on the sides of the body. Even if your underarm crutches have extra soft padding or ergonomic design they would affect the body badly in long-term. Walking for a longer hour with underarm crutches may lead to soreness and abrasion. When used for a longer period of time they can even result in permanent nerve damage or a condition medically referred to as crutch palsy.
Both the types of crutches require proper fitting to the patient but underarm crutches requires it more. And the irony of the situation is that the underarm crutches are mostly used as ‘one-size-fits-all’. Improperly fitted underarm crutches adversely affect the body in form of muscular pain and nerve damages.
Forearm crutches are designed in such a manner that the user will not be able to balance herself, in most of the cases, if it is not properly fitted. Slight variation in size does not cause much damage in case of forearm crutches. But in case of underarm crutches the user can walk without knowing that the crutches are of wrong size and that they are affecting her body.
Any aid required to manage a life with disability should not be bought without gathering information about the available variations. It becomes mandatory when you are going to need them for a longer period. You should know the pros and cons of the aids before making them your partner for life. Hope this article gave you enough information about the two types of crutches available for you.