Crutches and children - proper fit and safety tips

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After surgery or an injury, your child may need crutches to walk. Your child needs crutches for support so that she doesnot put weight on her hurt leg. Using crutches isn’t easy and takes practice. Make sure that your child’s crutches fit right and learn some safety tips.

Fitting Crutches

Ask your child’s health care provider to fit the crutches to your child. Proper fit makes using crutches easier and keeps your child from getting hurt when using them. Even if your child is fitted for their crutches:

  • Put the rubber caps on the underarm pads, hand grips, and feet. 
  • Adjust the crutches to the right length. With the crutches upright and your child standing, make sure you can put 2 fingers between your child’s underarm and the top of the crutches. Crutch pads against the armpit can give your child a rash and put pressure on nerves and blood vessels in the arm. Too much pressure can damage nerves and blood vessels. 
  • Adjust the height of the handgrips. They should be where your child’s wrists are when their arms are hanging by their side or hip. 
  • Make sure your child’s elbows are slightly bent when she starts to use the crutches, then extended when she takes a step.

Safety Tips

Teach your child to: 

  • Always keep crutches nearby so your child can use them 
  • Wear shoes that don’t slip off 
  • Move slowly 
  • Watch the surfaces your child walks on. Leaves, ice, and snow are all slippery. Your child should not slip on wet roads or sidewalks if the crutches have rubber tips. But wet crutch tips on indoor floors can be very slippery. 
  • Never hang on the crutches. This puts pressure on the arm nerve and can cause damage. 
  • Carry a backpack with the things they need. This way things are easy to reach and out of the way. 

Things parents can do: 

  • Put away things in your home that could cause your child to trip. This includes electrical cords, toys, throw rugs, and clothes on the floor. 
  • Talk to the school to give your child extra time to go between classes and to avoid crowds in the hallway. 
  • Check the crutch feet for tread. Make sure they are not slippery. 
  • Check the screws on the crutches every few days. They get loose easily.

When to Call the Doctor

If your child does not seem safe on crutches even after practicing with you, call the doctor. The doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who can teach your child how to use crutches.

If your child complains of numbing, tingling, or loss of feeling in their arm or hand, call the doctor.


Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 9/27/2012
  • Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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