Tips for Using Crutches

Using crutches may seem simple enough, but that's not necessarily the case—especially if you're unaware of some tips you should follow to get around both comfortably and safely.

For example, your crutches need to be the correct size. And there are specific ways you should get up from a chair or climb stairs when using crutches.

This article will help you to know how to size crutches and check them over before use. It also explains how to use crutches when getting out of a chair, using steps, or just walking while you wait for your injury to heal.

Man in a hospital gown with a bandaged leg using crutches
ERproductions Ltd / Getty Images

The safe and proper use of crutches requires good upper-body strength and flexibility. It also requires your injury to be isolated to a single leg. If this doesn't sound like you, you will need another type of support.

Size the Crutches

Crutches should be properly sized so you can use them appropriately and don't have problems.

You shouldn't assume the crutches you have at home are the right ones for you: they may need adjusting, or you may need a pair of a different size or style, such as the hands-free single crutch.

However, most people use standard crutches that should hit about one to two inches below the armpit (axillary) when you're standing straight. You should have the handles at wrist height, so that your elbows are slightly bent when you grasp them.

Types of Crutches

The two most common types of crutches are axillary crutches, which fit under your armpits, and forearm crutches (sometimes called Lofstrand crutches). There are reasons for why the forearm style might be preferred, but researchers have found axillary crutches easier and safer to use.

Check the Padding and Grips

Check the crutches to ensure they have ample cushion on the armpit, grips, and especially on the base that contacts the floor.

These parts of crutches can be replaced at a medical supply store if they become worn. You will soon feel the pain if your crutches don't have enough padding.

How to Sit in and Get Up From a Chair With Crutches

To stand up from a seated position while using crutches:

  • Place both crutches in the hand on the affected side (i.e., if your right leg is hurt, hold them in your right hand).
  • With your other hand, grasp the armrest of your chair.
  • Place your weight on your uninjured leg and push up with your arms.

Lowering yourself into a chair is much the same, but in reverse. Slowly lower yourself into the chair while holding both crutches in the same hand, keeping weight off the injured leg.

Be sure to keep the crutches nearby until you need to get up again. Lean them upside down, too, because they're more likely to fall over if propped on their ends.


Click Play to Learn How to Use Crutches

This video has been medically reviewed by Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT

Walking With Crutches

To walk with crutches:

  • Move both crutches together a short distance in front of you (about 18 inches). Always take short steps when on crutches, keeping the crutch tips a few inches from your feet to avoid tripping.
  • While supporting yourself with your hands, allow your body to swing forward as if you were going to step on the injured leg.
  • Instead of placing weight on the injured leg, rest your weight on the crutch handles.
  • Do not allow the crutch top to touch your armpit; keep your body supported with your hands. Nerve damage can occur if weight is placed on the armpits for too long.

There are some things that you should also keep in mind. For instance, your crutches take up more room on the sides and can easily get caught on things, so keep a wide area around you.

In addition, consider these tips on crutch form to prevent other injuries from occurring:

  • Look ahead to where you are walking and don't look at your feet.
  • Take short steps and rest often.
  • Keep the top of the crutches tightly against your sides and use your hands to absorb the weight.

Going Up Stairs With Crutches

When going up and down stairs, go one step at a time, and rest at each step.

You have a couple of options for using crutches on the stairs. You can:

  • Stand close to the step and place the crutches on ground level.
  • With your weight on the crutches, bring the uninjured foot up to the step.
  • Then bring the crutches up to the step level.
  • Repeat this for each step.

If there's a handrail, you can use this alternative method:

  • Hold both crutches under one arm.
  • Grab the handrail with the other hand.
  • Lead with the uninjured leg.
  • Take one step at a time.

Going Down Stairs With Crutches

How you go down the stairs on crutches depends on whether you can or can't bear some weight on your injured leg.

If you're not supposed to be putting weight on your injured leg:

  • Hold the foot of the injured leg up in front.
  • Hop down each step on your good leg.
  • Be sure to support yourself with the crutches held in front of you on the next lower step, or use the handrail on one side while holding the crutches in the other hand.

You may want to have someone assist you at first, especially if you don't have good upper-body strength.

If your healthcare provider says you can briefly bear weight on the injured leg:

  • Place the crutches on the next lower step.
  • Step down with the injured leg.
  • Then quickly bring down the good leg.
  • Take it one step at a time.


Needing to use crutches, at least for a few weeks, likely follows an injury or surgery to your leg. Newer types and styles are available, such as hands-free crutches. But most people use axillary crutches that fit beneath the armpits.

Crutches are safer and easier to use when properly sized and when you've had training on how to use them. Don't assume you know what to do because it seems simple. Be sure to discuss the proper use of crutches with your physical therapist and healthcare team.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dewar C, Martin KD. Comparison of Lower Extremity EMG Muscle Testing With Hands-Free Single Crutch vs Standard Axillary Crutches. Foot Ankle Orthop. 2020 Sep 2;5(3):2473011420939875. doi:10.1177/2473011420939875.

  2. Yap W, Hairodin Z, Kwek E. Axillary versus Forearm Crutches: A Prospective Cohort Comparing which is Superior for 3-Point Crutch Gait. Malays Orthop J. 2021 Jul;15(2):36-42. doi:10.5704/MOJ.2107.006.

  3. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. How to use crutches, canes, and walkers.

  4. University of Utah. Walking With Crutches.

  5.  University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 12 Tips for Stair Climbing.

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.