If you’ve severely injured or recently got surgery on your foot or ankle you may be wondering whether you should be using crutches, a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair. There are a lot of options for walking aids while you recuperate but they’re not all necessarily for the same things. Here is a breakdown of what each does and how it’s properly used.

Crutches: For most foot or ankle injuries (broken/fractured bones, severely sprained ankles) that require you to keep your weight off of your foot, crutches are the right option. However, if you are obese or have extremely weak upper body strength you may need to use a wheelchair instead. Crutches may be used for weeks or months, but generally are for injuries that will eventually heal as it is not ideal to use crutches for an extended period of time.

Proper Usage: First make sure there is a 1-2 inch gap between your armpits and the top of the crutches. Then adjust the grips to align them with your hips. Your arms should be slightly bent when you’re using the crutches. Do NOT put all of your weight on your armpits (this can cause nerve and blood vessel damage) instead, try to keep the weight on your hands.

Cane: Canes are mostly for minor foot and ankle issues. They are especially helpful if you have balance or stability issues. Canes can be used whenever you need and for however long you need them.

Proper Usage: Make sure you pick a cane that is the right length. When you stand up, the cane should just reach your wrist. The cane should be in the hand that is opposite the side that is weaker.

Wheelchair: If you are unable to move, cannot put any weight on either foot, or have other injuries that prevent you from using your arms, you need a wheelchair.

Proper Usage: There is no real wrong way to use a wheelchair. Just try not to sit in one too long to avoid sore spots.

Walker: Walkers are more used for hip, back, or knee injuries/surgeries. They can help support your body weight so that you are putting less weight on the lower half of your body.

Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center has been treating patients in the Centreville, VA area for over seventeen years. If you have any questions give us a call at 703-996-3000 or make an appointment here.

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