Crutches help people who have injuries or illnesses that affect their legs walk. They can be used short term, such as during recovery from an accident or surgery, or long term, such as for a lifelong disability.
There are three primary types of crutches. The right type for you depends on why you need the crutches and on your overall health.
There are three primary types of crutches:
- Underarm Crutches. Underarm crutches are also called axilla crutches and are the most common type of crutch. These crutches are placed in your underarm for use and can be adjusted for height. They are easy to use and balance but can lead to discomfort and fatigue.
- Forearm crutches. Forearm crutches are also called lofstrand or elbow crutches. These crutches have a cuff that goes around your forearm and handles for your hand to grip. Forearm crutches are most often used by people who need long-term crutches.
- Forearm support crutches. Forearm support crutches are also called adjustable arthritic crutches, platform crutches, or gutter crutches. They have padded forearms and adjustable handles that can help people who need more support from their crutches.
In cases where someone’s injury or disability only affects one leg, they might use a specialized crutch called a leg support crutch. A leg support crutch isn’t a traditional crutch. You don’t use your hands or arms with this crutch. Instead, the knee of your injured or affected leg is bent and rests on a knee pad. It’s secured with straps going up the thigh and around the calf. The bottom of the crutch extends to the ground and allows you to walk.
The right crutches for you will depend on your condition, your doctor’s recommendations, and your upper body strength. Each crutch type has pros and cons. For example, forearm crutches require the most upper body strength, but many people find underarm crutches easier to master. Other differences include:
- Underarm crutches. Underarm crutches are generally used for people recovering from an injury or surgery. They’re typically used for people who will only need them for one to three months. They take less upper body strength and body control than forearm crutches.
- Forearm crutches. Forearm crutches are often used as a long-term mobility aid for people with a disability that affects their legs. You need good arm and upper body strength to use forearm crutches. Once people master forearm crutches, they often find them much easier to navigate and balance than underarm crutches.
- Forearm support crutches. Forearm support crutches are used for people who need additional support, such as people with arthritis or other chronic pain conditions. They can relieve some pressure on the body and help people with these pain conditions remain mobile.
The right crutches for you will also depend on individual factors. For example, not everyone who needs short-term crutches will use underarm crutches. Your doctor or physical therapist might recommend forearm crutches for you instead. You might also transition from one crutch type to another during your recovery.
Crutches can come at multiple price points depending on the style and material. Underarm crutches are generally the least expensive and can be wooden or metal. Forearm crutches and forearm support crutches can be basic, foldable, or deluxe and might cost a few hundred dollars.
If you need crutches, there are a few ways you can pay for them.
- Health insurance. Most insurance companies will cover basic underarm crutches when you need them. They’ll generally also cover long-term forearm crutches if your doctor or therapist says that they’re necessary. You can call your plan to ask if you’re not sure which crutches are covered.
- Medicare. Medicare covers crutches under Medicare part B in the durable medical equipment coverage, as long as your doctor and crutch supplier accepts Medicare. You will be required to pay 20 percent of the approved cost, as well as any applicable deductibles. You may be required to rent or purchase your crutches depending on your medical condition and needs.
- Discount retailers. Drug stores, discount medical supply companies, and even big-box retailers like Amazon or Walmart sell different types of crutches. A sale price could make prices at these retailers very affordable. In some cases, it might even be less than the copayment you’d have using insurance
- Rental crutches. You can rent crutches if you know you’ll only need them in the short term. Renting crutches is generally cheaper than purchasing them. Many websites offer crutch rental.
- Donated crutches. Because many people only use crutches for a few months, it’s possible to get donated crutches from people who no longer need them. Donated crutches are often collected by medical suppliers and rehabilitation centers. Talk to your physical therapist or search online to find donated crutches that might work for you.
There are three primary types of crutches. The right kind for you will depend on why you need the crutches, your upper body strength, and what your doctor or physical therapist recommends.
Most crutches will be covered by insurance. You can also rent crutches or buy them from discount retailers. If you’re having trouble paying for the crutches you need, donated crutches are available.