Gout is a common and treatable form of inflammatory arthritis in which uric acid builds up in your tissues and joints, causing pain and inflammation. It usually happens in the feet and in certain joints, particularly your big toe, and a flare-up might wake you in the middle of the night.
While gout can be quite painful, there are things you can do to treat it, such as changing your diet and taking medication. But during an acute flare-up, you might need a mobility aid if you find it difficult or too painful to walk.
If you have a gout flare-up, it’s a good idea to contact a doctor to access treatments that can help manage your gout. Your healthcare team can recommend a treatment program that might include medications to help you feel better, such as corticosteroids and over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatories.
You can also use crutches to take your weight off the painful joint.
When you contact a healthcare professional for diagnosis or treatment, you can ask whether crutches would help you stay mobile while you wait for a flare-up to go away.
If your medical professional recommends them, many insurance companies will often cover the cost of crutches. If you have surgery, the hospital may also send you home with a set. The advantage of getting crutches from your doctor or hospital is that staff can make sure they fit and work properly.
If you don’t have insurance or your insurance won’t cover crutches, there are often nonprofit organizations that temporarily lend medical equipment. You could also buy them online or rent them by the month. A friend or family member might also have some to lend.
There are different types of crutches, and not all of them may help. Most crutches work by transferring weight from your lower to your upper body, but that may not work well for everyone.
There are three types of crutches:
- underarm crutches
- forearm crutches
- forearm support crutches
The wrong crutches could lead to falls or injuries, but a medical professional will typically know which type you need.
Once you have crutches, it’s important to use them correctly to avoid injury or worsening your gout.
Here are some tips for using the most common type, called underarm crutches:
- Make sure your crutches fit. The pads should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches below your armpits. Your elbows should have a slight bend when holding the hand grips.
- Try to support your weight with your hands and not your armpits.
- To avoid tripping, wear flats or sneakers, not heels or slippers.
- Watch out for hazards on the ground, such as cords, rugs, holes, or uneven ground.
- Use the crutches in a well-lit place so you can spot any tripping risks.
For videos and tips on how to use them in just about any situation, check out our guide.
The Arthritis Foundation also recommends using a cane if it’s too painful to put pressure on your joint.
Canes generally fall into single-, three- or quad-point categories. Most people just need a single point, although some people may need one with more points for added stability.
The foundation provides the following recommendations:
- Wear your walking shoes.
- Use a cane that hits at your wrist crease.
- Hold your cane on the stronger side and move with your weaker side.
- Place it about 2 inches in front of you when walking.
Some people find that having the right footwear helps ease pressure on their feet and affected joints.
The researchers from the study above recommend shoes that conform to your foot, are pliable, and have adjustable straps and a wide opening. Shoes with those features helped the study participants walk a little faster.
There are plenty of gout orthotics available online. Speak with your doctor or specialist about what types would help the most.
Racial disparities in gout pain
Experts need to perform more research to determine and address the disparity, but the interventions above can help you stay mobile in the event of a flare-up.
Even if you have gout, the
Joint-friendly activities you can do with gout include walking, biking, and swimming. They are low impact activities with a low risk of injury and don’t stress or twist your joints. However, if you have a painful flare in your feet, your doctor might recommend that you avoid walking for a while to prevent swelling.
If you choose walking as your activity, the
- Start slowly and at low intensity, and build up to more as your body adjusts.
- Aim to eventually get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
- Modify your activity if you feel pain afterward by exercising less frequently or for shorter periods until your pain reduces.
- Make sure your activity, such as walking, doesn’t put a lot of pressure on your joints.
- Find safe places to be active.
- Speak with your healthcare professional or a certified exercise specialist about your exercise plans.
Gout can cause flare-ups, making it painful or hard to walk and get around. There are various mobility aids to help you in the short term until treatment resolves the gout attack and improves your condition.
Aids include crutches or canes to relieve pressure on the affected joint, OTC anti-inflammatory medication, and the right footwear. All of these can help you stay active, which experts recommend for your overall health and the reduction of gout symptoms.