This is a blog about crutches. Crutches are very useful but certainly are far from ideal in terms of replicating normal walking – and as I am learning, sticks can be very difficult to get on with.
Crutches, such as the ones I received from the emergency department, appear to be designed to be both indestructible and disposable, simultaneously. They are lightweight but unforgiving, with cold, hard and grey plastic handles, and grey rubber feet that wear down quickly and are slippery in the wet.
After using the grey crutches for a few days I had developed very sore hands. Despite wrapping the handles in socks, a trick that I remembered had been successful during an injury in previous life, the pads of muscle and fat at the base of the thumb would ache after penduluming a couple of hundred metres. As with many things, I thought this discomfort would get better with time and adaptation, but by the end of the week the pain had gone even deeper!
To be honest, I didn’t much care about the discomfort – using crutches was much less painful than walking on a fractured acetabulum. I reckoned I could have ‘toughed it out’, but it seemed much more sensible to try to look after the rest of my body too – Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) injury caused by repetitive use of crutches with poor biomechanics is a concern, and after all, painful hands can be worse than a pain in the ass especially when one is dependent on hands for ‘work from home’ stuff.
Thus, I was easily persuaded to buy some different crutches with the idea that these sticks I am dependent on can be more ergonomic and safer, and safer because they are more ergonomic.
I bought Flexyfoot Shock Absorbing Crutches, in bright red, on Amazon for £65.
These Flexyfoot crutches are great!
I have started calling them the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of crutches. My mountain biking friends admire their suspension. My military colleagues say that they are ‘Mega Turbo Gucci’ (what does that even mean?)
They have designed a ‘high performance ferrule’ (A ferrule is the rubber foot of the crutch) that I haven’t seen before. It’s winning feature is that it flexes, hence the name, which allows the crutch to pivot over the flexing ferrule whilst its foot remains securely planted on the floor.
This is genius!
In my experience, the two most dangerous parts of a crutching gait are when the crutch goes out ahead of you in preparation for your step, and when you place your weight through the crutch when taking the step (i.e., using the crutches..)
During these two points, the crutch is often not perpendicular to the floor, resulting in either your body weight being not evenly spread through the ferrule, or the ferrule not having full contact with the floor; resulting in less traction and a higher risk of slipping and falling.
The flexy-ferrule of the Flexyfoot acts like an ankle does, keeping the foot planted on the floor whilst the leg and body can function at varying angles with confidence and security. The mobility is provided by a concertina-esque structure that flexes, but also acts as ‘bellows’ or a spring, compressing and rebounding with each loading cycle to provide some shock absorption.
The feet have also a sophisticated design. Unlike the previous pair of crutches, which had a pattern resembling a vacuum cup, the Flexyfoot have a circular ridged pattern akin to one on a walking boot. The composition of the rubber itself appears durable and, instead of wearing away quickly, appears to wear to form a more roughened surface which I assume allows it to provide more grip on smooth surfaces. Indeed, the Flexyfoot company suggest that their ferrule provides up to 50% more grip than a traditional ferrule.
The ‘grey’ crutches had a hard and unforgiving handle, while I chose to have a ‘comfort handle’ on my pair of ‘high performance’ Flexyfoots. They appear to be more ergonomically shaped to better complement the shape of the hand, thumb and fingers, and they are made of a much softer rubber – no more need to cover the handles in woollen socks!
Do the Flexyfoot Crutches have any problems?
The main problem that I have with these Flexyfoots is that they enable me to walk much further than I should do or am used to!
Regardless of the shock absorptive and ergonomic properties of these crutches, I believe that bearing significant weight through our hands is exhausting and that walking using crutches offers only a limited capacity until we start to have pain – indeed, after a day of frequently getting around on my crutches, I will have tired elbows, shoulders, and often will still have lateral wrist pain. These crutches are better than others and I should take it easier.
Some may say that the crutch is quite heavy. Indeed, they are heavier than the emergency department ones; but their hardware seems much more robust and I feel that these Flexyfoots are built to last and will be able to be sold on in great condition after you’re done with them.
They also have reflective panels on the front and back of the handles. I don’t mind having the micky taken out of me, but the number of nurses and consultants who have likened me to either 1) a fire engine 2) a train 3) an ambulance has become mildly frustrating.
‘Do they have a siren, too?’Every colleague
I’m glad that I bought these crutches. The ones from the emergency department were much needed, were gratefully received, and have now been gratefully returned, but it was a wise decision to transfer from ’emergency care’ to ‘long term management’ by getting a set of crutches that are intelligently designed with safety and comfort at their heart. It’s worth investing in kit if it makes your life safer and more efficient.
If you need crutches, strongly consider the Flexyfoot Crutches (affiliate link). They might be the best deal to buy a Rolls-Royce that you’ll ever have.
They also offer an adaptor for icy and cold weather. Snowy trips to Dartmoor or Snowdonia, anyone?