Let’s start by looking at walkers. These are movable, lightweight devices that consist of a metal frame, two hand grips, and four legs. Walkers provide great stability due to their wide base, so they are great for people who can bear weight on their feet but have trouble walking due to weakness of the legs or balance issues.
Next up, we have canes. These are also movable, lightweight devices made of a strong material like wood or metal. Canes consist of a handle, a shaft, and legs. There are single leg, triple leg or quad leg canes, and the ones with multiple legs provide more stability but are also more cumbersome. Canes are used by clients who could bear weight but have weakness in one of their legs, like a stroke patient or those with paralysis in one leg. Crutches and walkers are better for people with two weak legs. A properly fitted cane should have the handle at the client’s hip level (Fig. 3a). The tips should also be non-slip.
Crutches are the last kind of common ambulation device (Fig. 4). They are either single or paired and are used by people who cannot bear weight on one or both legs. There are two common types of crutches: underarm, or axillary, and forearm crutches. Axillary crutches stretch from the armpits, or axilla, to the ground. They provide better balance but require more upper body strength to use. They are often used temporarily, like when someone is recovering from leg injuries. Forearm crutches are shorter, reaching from the elbow level to the ground. They have a hand grip and a cuff for the arm. The cuff lets the crutch stay attached to the arm when the person needs to use their hands for other tasks. This is one of the reasons that this type is preferred for people with permanent leg weakness.For proper fit, axillary crutches should leave 2–3 finger widths between the top of the crutch and the armpit. This prevents compressing the nerves found in the axilla. The person should be able to reach the handle with their elbows slightly flexed. Forearm crutches are often adjustable. With the arms relaxed and slightly flexed, the hand grip should be at the level of the hand, and the cuff should be at the level of the elbow. Check the bolts on the crutches to make sure they’re tight, that the non-slip tip is intact, and that there are no cracks or other deficits.
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