FAQ: Tell Me About Your Strange Crutches

OK, so my Twitter followers have been asking a ton of questions about my crutches after seeing pictures of one of them yesterday and so I thought it would be easiest to write a post that they can all read. There is a lot of info here so I will try and keep it as brief as possible:

1: Because my EDS affects my whole body, my wrists and hands are way too fragile to use crutches that require putting my weight on my hands. So the most “modern” kind of crutch like the pair on the right in this pic, is totally useless for me. When I first went onto crutches these are what they give me and hands were unusable and the pain excruciating within a week of using them. (The crutches on the left are used for temporary use only but they run a risk of nerve damage using underarms to support the weight). So I can’t use either of these.

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2: The only other option was to use a gutter crutch which use your stronger elbows to carry the weight rather than underarms (which can pinch nerves) or smaller boned hands like modern crutches do. This is the hideous pair of gutter crutches that looked like something out of a 1930s mental asylum, with turquoise โ€œmedical vinylโ€ and velcro that stuck to my clothes and pulled and damaged them. They were all metal and top heavy and clunky, I had to stop every 20 steps or so to tighten the metal screws otherwise they fell apart. They were also very noisy (lots of metal parts). They saved the day but as soon as I realised that I would need crutches permanently, I HAD to find a better option!

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3: So I googled gutter crutches and lo and behold some guy with a brain had only 2 years before invented an alternative, which was soooo obvious. I live in Johannesburg (South Africa) and this is where they were invented and produced, and so I had a brand new pair within 24hrs of looking them up (which were covered by my medical insurance thankfully). The lady selling them to me wanted me to be brave and get the purple pair that I loved, but seeing as I needed to use them permanently I went with the “safe option” of black. But she was so moved that this was a life long thing for me, that she kindly and lovingly donated the purple pair to me as well. They have been a life saver, and I am sure you can see from the pic that they are SOOOO much better than the clunky revolting metal ones.

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The difference was life changing, for all these reasons:

  • They are WAY lighter
  • The fixtures are solid … meaning that I never have to tighten them. Once set they are set forever (but can still be changed if need be).
  • There is no velcro yay! (my clothes are saved!)
  • They are more streamlined
  • The arm surrounds mean that I can use my hands while using them which is hard with normal crutches.

Everything about them was better, and they came in a huge range of colours too as you can see. My only negatives that I have are that I am exactly average in size and yet the whole moulded plastic top piece is way too big for me. I have it on the smallest setting (they are adjustable) but still too big. A smaller mould for smaller women and children would make a HUGE difference.

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Short term they are fabulous, and functionally, they are brilliant as permanent mobility aids for me. However, as you can no doubt see, the SmartCrutch was developed by a guy who is a motor cross rider. Fabulous if you are that kind of guy, but not when you are a woman, not when you are never going to heal ….and when looking “sporty” is way not what works for you.

But also with anything long term, these crutches take one hell of a beating. They get dropped, smashed into, go in and out of cars and planes, and get scraped on doors and furniture. A year after getting them and they started to look pretty beaten up. They are extremely hard wearing and are in perfect condition still, but as they are covered in stickers to make all those pretty motor bike designs (not!), those stickers have become scratched and damaged, corners are starting to peel, and if it wasn’t for those ugly stickers, they would still be fine. So I tried to pull the stickers off, but that glue is tough and so there is goop left over all the surfaces. But that is ok for me, I just glued fabric over instead, and so this is what I came up with:


My Orthopod got me down to a single crutch which is all I need when not in my wheelchair, and so I have been left with 4 single crutches, 2 purple and 2 black. I travel an awful lot and I don’t use them inside the home much, so of the 4 crutches, 1 is for travel and taken apart, one lives in my car, another in my husband’s car, and the fourth is for evening wear. It sounds extravagant and would never buy 4, but my life is SO much easier having one everywhere that I need one. As I needed a pair and was donated the second pair and these are an extension of my body now, I am extremely thankful for them all ….I NEED to use one every day; forever. The purple one that is multicoloured is my every day one. I use it all the time and it matches my personality and everything about me. The plain black one is for evenings. I don’t get out a lot but when I do it is for company events with my husband. They are wonderful at caring for me and providing everything I need, and he teases me that I am the queen in the corner, as I always sit and people need to come to me, but anyway, the funky somewhat bohemian day crutch is fabulous for running around, but the black one is very subtle and matches whatever I am wearing for more formal things.


I am half way through turning the second purple crutch into a red one with all kinds of red fabrics, and the second black one is going denim, so I will post those pics when they are finished ๐Ÿ™‚
 

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4 thoughts on “FAQ: Tell Me About Your Strange Crutches

  1. Thank you so much for this post Jenn. So many things you’ve mentioned I can relate to. The elbow style are torturous on my arthritic hands and wrists so I use the underarm currently when not in the wheelchair and have suffered nerve damage in both forearms from leaning on them while I swing. The gutter crutches which I tried are exactly as you described to a tee and just so burdensome and laborious. The SmartCrutch looks like a great alternative and I will further research hiring a pair to test drive them and purchase them if suitable. I’ve learned from having a stockpile of mobility aids I don’t/can’t use it’s a better and more affordable way. And while the patterns don’t appear to be feminine, I love what you have done to yours. They are an extension of us aren’t they and I know I would feel better using a better looking pair – I’m so over the sterile, surgical grey colour. Having them in all the vital places is a great idea too. Thanks again for the post ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. Oh Bill you are so welcome! I hope that I answered all the questions you have, if not, just keep asking here and I’ll answer as best I can. I’m actually shocked that anyone hands over the metal ones any more, I guess that not enough people appear to need them but ppl are having either nerves or hands badly damaged by regular crutches. I sooo hope that you can hire a pair, if not that you are able to buy them and if they don’t work for you we can work on selling them on. There is such a huge need out there for them!

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  2. I’ve walked with a cane for a couple years now, but it’s starting to wear down my elbow and twist my forearm bones out of place, pinching nerves. I’m wondering if one of these would be less problematic or more because of where the weight bearing is. All my joints have weakened a lot, and I’m worried this might mean more strain on my elbow and shoulder. Any thoughts?

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    1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear what has happened to you ๐Ÿ˜ข it is such a struggle isn’t it! The first thing that I can say is for me I only lasted 10 days on normal crutches before my joints collapsed and then I’ve been a year on these without a single problem so there is something about the weight distribution that is WAY better on these ones, The second thing is that normal crutches use your arms fairly straight which puts massive strain on the elbow joint but these ones they are bent so the weight is on the stronger upper bones. The third is that you can use them with your arms in a more natural position, which means you don’t twist your arms. I don’t know how much damage your poor arms have already but it sounds like to keep going would make them even worse? These for me were a life saver, I hope they are for you too!

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