All about Crutches
The proper crutch length is decided while
the patient is standing. The top of the
crutch, when placed directly under the arm
with the crutch tip next to the ankle, should
be about 2 inches below the level of the
armpit (about the width of 2 fingers). The
handgrip should be lined up at the level of
the wrist when the arm is at the side.
Weight Bearing Status Definitions
Your doctor will prescribe one of these
▪ Nonweight-bearing (NWB) – hold the
“bad” leg off the ground at all times.
▪ Touchdown weight-bearing (TDWB) –
the foot of the “bad” leg may set on the
ground without putting weight on it.
You can also just touch your toes down
▪ Partial weight-bearing (PWB) – set the
foot of the “bad” leg down and place a
small amount of weight on it (about 30
pounds or as instructed by your doctor).
▪ Weight-bearing as tolerated (WBAT)
– put as much weight on the “bad” leg as
is comfortable. When you can walk
without a limp, you can stop using your
crutches unless instructed otherwise by
Walking with Crutches
Think of this mantra…crutches, bad leg,
good leg. Crutches, bad leg, good leg…
1. Crutches forward, slightly off to the
2. Bring your “bad” leg up to the crutch
3. Put your weight on the crutches and
bring your “good” leg up to the
At first, don’t try to go too fast or too far
with each step. However, soon you will be
advancing your “bad” leg and crutches at the
same time followed by moving your “good”
leg forward past your crutches.
Do not lean on the crutches with the armpits
as nerve damage may result!
There are various crutch-walking patterns.
Three-point gait. Both crutches and the
“bad” leg are moved forward at the same
time. Then, the “good” leg is moved
forward between the crutches while pushing
down firmly on the hand grips using your
arm strength to carry the load. The “bad”
leg and crutches are advanced together
followed by the “good” leg moving you
When using the three-point gait, you may
▪ Swing-to gait in which both crutches
are moved forward together and the
legs are then swung forward to a
position even with the crutches.
▪ Swing-through gait in which both
crutches are moved forward together
and the legs are then swung forward
to a position beyond the crutches.
Stairs with Crutches
Going up and down stairs with crutches can
be challenging, but becomes easier by
following this rule of thumb.
Up with the good; down with the bad.
Going upstairs, the “good” leg goes up
1. Stand close to the foot of the stairs.
2. Push down firmly on the handgrips
of the crutches and lead up with the
3. Crutches and the “bad” leg are then
brought up to the same level as the
Going downstairs, the “bad” leg goes
1. Stand close to the edge with toes
protruding slightly over the stair.
2. The crutches and “bad” leg are
moved down together to the front
half of the lower step. If weight-
bearing status is “non weight-
bearing”, the “bad” leg is held
forward over the lower step as the
crutches are moved down.
Otherwise, lower the “bad” leg and
crutches at the same time to the
3. Push down firmly on both handgrips
and lower the “good” leg to the level
of the crutches and “bad” leg.
If there is a railing available, you may use it
instead of one of the crutches. Hold both
crutches under one arm (with the hand
holding both handgrips) and the railing with
the other hand. If holding both crutches in
this manner is difficult, hold just one crutch
under the arm and the other one
perpendicular to it.
Hold on to both crutches with one hand.
The second crutch is held by its frame rather
than by its handgrip. Once both crutches are
safely in hand, follow the above stair-
When first attempting stairs on crutches,
have a spotter stand just below you to assist
should you lose your balance.
If all else fails, it is okay to go up and down
the stairs on your rump!
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6826