A child who suffered a foot, leg, or ankle injury can recover quickly by reducing the weight exerted on the injured foot or leg while walking or standing. Crutches are the best means to help the child to do so. They can assist the child in standing or moving around without placing much weight on the injured leg. However, the child should first learn how to use crutches properly. Not knowing the proper crutch usage technique can make him lose balance and fall. Along with the doctor, the parents can also teach the child how to stand and walk with crutches, allowing him to move while still recovering.
What Is Crutch Walking?
A crutch is an aid designed to ease the mobility of a person who is unable to support his weight on one or both legs. It is ideal for usage by the one who has injured his foot or leg or undergone leg surgery. A crutch can aid mobility and allow the child to shift the lower body weight to the upper body. Such mobility with the aid of crutches is termed crutch walking. Crutch walking is not restricted to people suffering from a lower-body injury. Doctors also advise it for children who have an orthopaedic disorder.
Need and Importance of Crutches for Kids
Physicians prescribe crutches for children who have had bone fractures, leg injury, or orthopaedic problems, such as dysplasia, musculoskeletal infections, or development dislocation of the hip. Crutches provide the ideal therapeutic support required by the child during his healing process. They take away the weight from the injured leg or foot and transfer it to the upper body. Crutches enable the child to move more easily and recover properly. They are important for the child to recover from lower-body injury or orthopaedic issues.
When Can a Child Walk With Crutches?
A child can start using the crutches when the doctor prescribes to use them for medical issues, such as a leg injury or musculoskeletal problem. The beginning of the treatment begins with the use of crutches, which, as mentioned earlier, act as a mobility aid to ease movement and transfer the lower body weight to the upper body. To start walking using a crutch, the child will be first fitted for a proper crutch which is ideal for his height. Then, the child and the parents will receive training or instructions on how to use the crutch.
Types of Crutches
Children’s crutches are of many types, and the doctor will decide which one to prescribe based on the diagnosis of the injury.
1. Non-Weight Bearing (NWB)
This type keeps the bad or injured leg off the ground at all times.
2. Touchdown Weight-Bearing (TDWB)
In this type, the injured foot or the leg may be set on the floor but without placing any weight on it.
3. Partial Weight-Bearing (PWB)
This type allows the child to place a small amount of weight on the foot of the injured leg.
4. Weight-Bearing as Tolerated (WBAT)
This type allows a patient to put weight on the injured leg as much as they can tolerate or are comfortable with.
Tips for Children to Walk Safely With Crutches
For children to walk safely with crutches, the parents need to ensure that they learn how to properly use the crutches. First, they need to adjust the crutches and then learn how to walk, sit, stand or get down the stairs using crutches. Let’s take a look at each step.
Adjusting the Crutches
The pediatric forearm crutches need to fit the child perfectly. The crutches can be adjusted by doing the following:
- Make the child stand straight. In case the child cannot stand safely, make him lie down and then take the measurement.
- Now measure the height from the child’s armpit to the ground.
- Deduct five cms from his height to get the correct length of the crutch.
- Adjust the height of the handgrip of the crutch, so the elbows of the child bend slightly when he is standing relaxed.
- Check the wing nuts of the crutches. They should be tight and safe.
- Also, check that the crutch tips or the rubber stoppers at the bottom are not worn and are securely attached.
How to Sit and Stand Up With Crutches
After the crutches have been adjusted, the child can learn to sit and stand using the crutches. The following things should be considered to sit and stand using the crutches:
- The child should be standing straight with his feet apart and have a good balance before he tries to use the crutch.
- The crutches should be slightly in front of the feet and about 10-15 cms out from the side.
- The child should be holding the handgrips of the crutches firmly by his side. The elbows should be slightly bent with his upper arms pressing against his body.
- Move both the crutches out to the front of his feet. The crutches should not be too far out or too apart from each other.
- When standing or sitting, the child should balance the weight on his hands, pushing down on the crutch handles. He shouldn’t lean on his armpits but his hands.
- While sitting, the child should lean forward, putting his sore leg slightly forward, lean slightly or bend gently on his good leg and then lower himself to sit.
- While standing, he should hold his head high, straighten the good leg slightly and then push himself up to get up from the seat.
How to Walk With Crutches
Once the child has learned how to sit and stand using the crutches, he can start practising walking using the crutches. The child can either use partial weight-bearing crutches or no weight bearing crutches. The method to walk will differ for both of them.
1. With Partial Weight-Bearing Crutches
With partial weight-bearing crutches, your child, to balance, can touch the ground with his bad foot. To walk, the child needs to:
- Stand putting weight on the good foot.
- Move the crutches out front.
- Put his bad leg forward with the help of crutch tips. To balance, some weight can be put on the bad foot.
- Most weight should be on the handgrips.
- The crutches should be squeezed between the arms and the side of the chest.
- Take a step forward with the good leg.
- Take the next step by moving the bad leg along with the crutches.
- The child should look ahead while walking and not at their feet.
2. With Non Weight-Bearing Crutches
With no weight-bearing crutches, the child cannot put any pressure on the injured leg or feet. The child uses his arms, hands, good foot and crutches to move forward. To walk, the child needs to:
- Stand putting weight on the good foot.
- Hold the crutches to the side of the body, squeezing them using the arms.
- Move the crutches out front. The crutches should be placed wider than the feet.
- The bad leg to be moved with the crutches.
- Push down on the handgrips and hop-forward on the good foot.
- The child should not lean on the crutch from his armpits as it can damage the nerves and blood vessels.
- Take the next step by moving the crutch slightly forward with the injured foot.
How to Climb Up the Stairs With Crutches
Climbing stairs is the trickiest part of using crutches. The child can do so by following these steps:
- Walk right up to the stairs.
- Bring their weight on the crutches and then hop on the first stair using the good foot.
- Bring the crutches on the step along with the injured foot.
- Continue the process.
How to Climb Down the Stairs With Crutches
To come down the stairs, the child needs to:
- Walk up to the edge of the stairs.
- Place the crutches on the step below.
- Move the injured foot and lean slightly on the crutches. Place his weight completely on the crutches, not on the injured foot.
- Step his good foot down, pushing through the crutches.
- Continue the process carefully down the stairs.
Things to Remember While Using Crutches
Crutches should be used carefully. Parents and children should take care of the following points while using crutches:
- The child should learn to use crutches properly and start using them slowly at first.
- The weight should be on the hands and not on the armpits.
- The crutches should never be placed too far out or too far away from each other.
- When going down or up the stairs, parents or caregivers should be nearby for assistance.
Crutches help assist kids and adults in moving around and recovering from a leg or foot injury. To teach children how to use crutches to stand and walk, parents must first learn the proper usage and then teach their kids. In case your child is not able to coordinate well enough with the crutches, consult a physician.