Guest Blog by Tom Schwab, founder of GoodbyeCrutches. Follow Tom on twitter at @TMSchwab.
Who ever came up with the sarcastic phrase “Funny as a crutch” surely had the challenge of using crutches in the winter on snow and ice. While staying non weight bearing after an injury or surgery is always challenging, winter conditions only make it more treacherous. Since winter may last even longer than your recovery, staying inside isn’t an option. Here are some tips to stay safe, stay mobile, and stay non weight bearing.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Good posture is important while using crutches. Standing erect and looking forward helps you keep your balance. But it is important to be aware of the surface that will be supporting your crutches. You can take precautions for the snow and ice you see. But the most dangerous areas are the ones you don’t see. That dusting of snow may be covering a sheet of ice.
- Ensure your crutches are positioned to support you. For maximum support your crutches should be vertical and directly below your shoulders. While this is only possible while standing still, the closer you keep them to this position as you walk the safer you will be. This means crutches that are adjusted to the proper height and not so tall that they angle outwards. Small steps also keep the crutches under you where they can offer support.
- Make sure the tires aren’t bald. Much like tires on your car, make sure the rubber tips of your crutches are not worn smooth. There are spiked attachments for the bottom of crutches that solve this problem. While they work well on ice and snow, they may provide even less traction on wet or smooth surfaces you encounter.
- Traction with good foot. With only one good foot on the ground, make sure to maximize the traction it provides. This means shoes designed with soles to accommodate snow. The addition of devices such as YakTraxs can make most any low heeled shoe appropriate. Think of them as tire chains for your shoes. Often used by runners and outdoor enthusiasts in the winter, these devices can easily be slipped on and off you shoe.
- Alternatives to crutches. By their design crutches are unstable. Regardless of the conditions some people prefer to use a stable 4 wheeled cart to support their injured leg. These devices called knee scooters or knee walker turn much like a bike as the patient propels them selves with their good leg. The large 8” wheels maybe dwarfed by the snow drift, but they can accommodate most obstacles you encounter both inside and outside.
Lance Silverman, MD
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