When it comes to choosing the right walking aid, the debate between crutches and walkers is a common one. In this blog post, we will delve into “Crutches vs. Walker: How to Choose the Right One?”
We will take a look at the differences between crutches and walkers and help you make an informed decision based on your needs.
What Are Crutches?
Crutches are support devices that transfer weight from your legs to your upper body while walking or standing. They come in various styles, such as underarm (axillary) crutches, forearm (Lofstrand) crutches, and platform crutches.
Advantages of Crutches
- Provide more freedom of movement than walkers
- Allow for greater upper body strength and endurance
- Can be used on stairs with proper training
- Available in different styles to accommodate various needs
Disadvantages of Crutches
- Require more upper body strength and coordination
- Can cause underarm pain and discomfort with prolonged use
- May not be suitable for those with weak upper body or balance issues
- Can be challenging to use on uneven surfaces or in tight spaces
What Are Walkers?
A walker, also known as a walking frame or Zimmer frame, is a four-legged device made of metal or plastic designed to provide additional support during walking or standing. It distributes weight evenly across all four points of contact with the ground.
Walkers come in several forms, such as the standard non-wheeled (pick-up) type, two-wheeler models (rolling walker), and four-wheelers (rollator).
Advantages of Walkers
- Provide more stability and support than crutches
- Require less upper body strength and coordination
- It can be used on various surfaces and in tight spaces
- Available in different styles to accommodate various needs
Disadvantages of Walkers
- May limit freedom of movement compared to crutches
- It can be bulky and difficult to transport
- May not be suitable for those with weak leg muscles or knee injuries
- May require additional accessories for optimal use, such as knee scooters
Crutches Vs. Walker: How To Choose The Right One?
Choosing between a walker and crutches depends on your mobility needs, stability, and comfort.
Walkers provide more support and are suitable for those with limited balance or strength.
Crutches offer greater freedom of movement but require good upper-body strength and coordination.
Here Is How to Choose the Right Crutches or Walker
The following tips will help you select the best option based on your individual needs:
Consider Your Physical Condition When Choosing Between Crutches and Walker
For those with greater upper body strength and the capacity to bear weight on one leg, crutches may be an appropriate mobility aid.
On the other hand, if you require more stability and support while walking due to limited strength or balance issues, a walker might be better suited.
Evaluate Your Lifestyle Needs
Different types of crutches and walkers are designed to cater to various lifestyle requirements:
- Standard Crutches – Suitable for short-term use after injuries like sprains or fractures.
- Forearm Crutches – Designed for long-term use by individuals with chronic conditions such as cerebral palsy or arthritis.
- Folding Walkers – Ideal for those who need extra support but also want a portable option that’s easy to store when not in use.
- Rollator Walkers (Four-Wheeled) – Equipped with wheels and brakes, perfect for people who need assistance with balance but can still walk independently at their own pace.
Get Properly Fitted for Crutches and Walkers
To ensure the right fit, follow these guidelines:
- Crutches – When standing upright with your arms relaxed at your sides, the top of the crutch should be about 1-2 inches below your armpit. The handgrip should be aligned with your wrist when bending your arm to a 30-degree angle.
- Walkers – Adjust the height so that when you grip the handles, there’s a slight bend in your elbows (approximately 15 degrees). Your wrists should be level with the walker’s handgrips.
Crutches vs. Walker: Test Drive Before Buying
Try out different crutches or walkers before purchasing them to see which one feels most comfortable and provides adequate support.
Many medical supply stores offer demonstrations or even short-term rentals for this purpose.
Consult With A Healthcare Professional
A healthcare professional such as a physical therapist can provide valuable guidance on selecting an appropriate mobility aid based on their assessment of your needs and abilities.
They may also recommend specific models or brands they have found compelling for other patients in similar situations.
Maintaining Your Crutches or Walker
Proper maintenance of the walking aid is key to ensuring its continued functionality and safety.
Cleaning Your Mobility Aid
- Regular cleaning – Regularly wipe down the surfaces of your axillary crutches, forearm crutches, or walkers with a damp cloth to remove dirt and grime.
- Disinfecting – Occasionally, use a mild disinfectant solution to clean high-touch areas like handles and handgrips.
- Avoid harsh chemicals – Refrain from using abrasive cleaners that could damage the finish of your walking aid.
Schedule regular inspections of your mobility device to check for any signs of wear or damage that may compromise its functionality. Look out for these common issues:
- Bent frames in walkers provide less stability; consider replacing them if necessary.
- Damaged rubber tips on crutches can cause slipping; replace them as needed (here’s a guide on choosing the right ones).
- Loose screws should be tightened immediately. If they continue loosening, consult with a professional about possible replacements.
- Examine the padding on axillary crutches; worn-out padding may cause discomfort underarms. Replace when needed.
Storing Your Walking Aid Properly
- Keep it dry – Store your walking aid in a cool, dry place away from moisture. Prolonged exposure to water can cause rusting and damage to the device.
- Avoid extreme temperatures – Avoid leaving your crutch or walker in direct sunlight or freezing conditions, which may weaken the materials over time.
- Proper storage position – When not in use, store walkers upright and lean crutches against a wall with their tips on the ground for stability.
Why Are Crutches Better Than a Walker?
Crutches can be better than walkers in certain situations as they allow faster mobility, easier navigation through narrow spaces, and less weight bearing on the injured leg.
Is a Walker Easier to Use Than Crutches?
A walker is generally easier to use than crutches because it provides more stability and requires less upper body strength.
The Bottom Line
Crutches vs. Walker: How to Choose the Right One? Picking between crutches and walkers can be a tough call.
Crutches are ideal for those who need more support and stability, while walkers offer greater balance and ease of movement.
Visit Senior Supported to learn more about mobility devices such as crutches or walkers.