Should I Use a Knee Walker or Crutches During My Recovery?

If you have a recent injury to your knee, ankle, or foot that requires you to keep weight off of the injured leg, you may have the option of using a knee walker or crutches. But how do you choose between the two? While, in some cases, the decision may be made by your physician, at others you may be given a choice. To help you determine which options is right for you, here are some points to consider.

Cost of the Device

In many cases, the retail cost of crutches will be lower than that associated with a knee walker. However, if you have medical insurance, your chosen device may be covered either in whole or in part. While this can vary depending on the nature of the injury, doctor recommendation, and your chosen medical coverage, it can be a vital part of the decision-making process. If you aren’t sure about the cost, speak with your physician and health insurance company to explore the options more thoroughly in regards to price.

Upper Body Strength

Individuals with notable upper body strength may find they are able to move about more easily on crutches than a knee scooter. Often, it can be easier to move quickly with crutches, once you become used to them, and it makes navigated certain obstacles, like stairs easier.

However, people without much upper body strength may find using crutches especially challenging. Using crutches can be a significant workout for the arms, shoulders, wrists, and back, so they might not be ideal for those who aren’t already in decent shape.

Stability

When it comes to stability, a knee walker is a better choice. Not only does the device sit low to the ground, but it also has a wider base. This makes using it feel more comfortable early on and limits the risk of the device tipping accidentally.

In comparison, crutches are fairly unstable. It can take some time to learn to balance on them, and they are prone to falling over when stored vertically when not in use. This can be especially troublesome if retrieving them from the floor would be difficult based on the injury. Further, crutches are more challenging to use on slick surfaces and, should one crutch slip, the chance of a fall is much higher.

Resting the Injured Limb

Crutches often require the person to sustain the weight of the injured limb without providing many opportunities to rest. This can cause significant strain on the knee, hip, and back depending on how the injured limb is wrapped, such as when a cast is required, as well as how long a person has to remain in a standing position.

Knee walkers allow the injured leg to rest on the provided cushion. This can be a more comfortable method for getting around especially when a heavy cast is required to stabilize the injury. Additionally, the somewhat elevated position can help limit swelling when compared to the position one holds with crutches. Often, lessening the amount of swelling can make the overall recovery period more comfortable than if swelling is allowed to occur.

How to Use Crutches

The first step to using crutches properly is to adjust them to a comfortable height. The hand grips need to be in the right spot based on the length of your arms, and the stops should fall approximately 1 ½ inches below your armpit, not against your armpits.

Next, hold the crutches tightly to your sides. When in the proper position, your hands absorb the majority of your body weight providing the additional support necessary to keep the foot of your injured leg off of the ground.

Then, move the crutches forward approximately one foot, or one stride, in front of your body. Swing the foot of the non-injured leg through as though you were taking a normal stride. Finally, move the crutches forward again and repeat the process as necessary.

How to Use a Knee Walker

If you have elected to use a knee walker instead of crutches while you heal, here is a basic overview of their proper use.

First, you need to keep the knee and shin of the injured leg against the cushion, making sure the knee walker is at the proper height for your leg. The ankle will rest near the end of the padded seat, and the foot rests beyond it. This ensures that the injured portion of the leg is properly supported by the knee walker at all times.

The foot on the non-injured leg is used to propel the knee walker. It generally remains off to the side of the device and is used in a similar fashion to a person on a traditional toy scooter or skateboard. The handlebar provides a method for steering, either by turning the front wheels or by providing a point to lift the front of the device and adjust the direction.

The hands remain on the handlebar provided, with the fingers of one hand resting on the brake. This ensures that, if an emergency occurs, they can operate the brake quickly. However, the brake is generally only to be used sparingly, with the non-injured foot doing the majority of the work.

Is Either Solution Better?

Ultimately, whether you choose to use crutches or a knee walker is a personal choice made with the assistance and guidance of your physician. Depending on your normal activities and typical living or working environment, one may make significantly more sense than another.

For example, if you spend much of your day in a standing position or moving between locations, you may find a knee walker more convenient. However, if that isn’t the case, then you may choose crutches as a cost saving option.

Regardless of your decision, it is important to follow all of your physician’s instructions regarding the proper use of the device as well as for the care of your injury. By following your instructions precisely, you can limit the amount of time either device is required, allowing you to get back to your normal life as quickly as possible.

About the Author Nurse Susan, RN

I have always been passionate about helping people heal. After I retired from my lifelong career as a nurse, that passion didn’t go away. That’s why I started this site. I encountered all sorts of medical products during my years as a nurse, and now I want to use that knowledge to help you make the best choices for your health. I know how the right product can change someone’s life for the better, so I’m here to help you find the best medical products to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.