Perhaps you have already come across the saying “Good leg goes to heaven, bad leg goes to hell”. If not, read further and let me explain it to you. But, before I begin, please keep in mind two things:
Firstly, that climbing stairs improperly with crutches is no laughing matter. You could easily end up re-injuring yourself, injuring yourself in a new way, or worse. What could be worse than a new injury? How about injuring someone else, like your small child climbing up the stairs after you. There are a lot of statistics I could bore you with on this subject, but I will save that another time.
And secondly, please note that this first part of what I’m about to tell you represents the “conventional wisdom” but unfortunately it makes no sense whatsoever – and you’ll see why in a moment…
How the internet recommends you to climb stairs with crutches
Okay, lets start by climbing the stairs. The current school of thought says that you should keep your crutches and your bad leg on the current step. Step forward with your good leg and lift yourself up to the next step. Then bring your bad leg and crutches up to meet your good leg. Repeat the process until you are at the top.
Going down stairs is a little different. The consensus on the internet seems to be that you should keep your good leg on the current step, place your crutches down one step until they have a solid contact and move along with your bad leg, then lower yourself by essentially ‘hopping’ on your good leg down one step, with your crutches to support you of course.
This all seems fine, and is a whole lot better than doing this in the opposite order (please don’t try it), but first of all I will point out that there is an easier way to remember this:
Never move on the stairs so that your crutches are positioned one stair up from your body!
But there is another problem with this thinking, and that is something I’m sure we have all learned since we were children, and that is to ALWAYS HOLD THE HANDRAIL. Have you ever had a parent, grandparent or school teacher remind you of this rule? For most people this is common sense. So why is this rule mysteriously not mentioned for climbing stairs with crutches? It’s quite a mystery.
How to climb stairs safely with crutches: 3 methods to try…
I’m going to show you three ways you can climb the stairs with crutches – while holding the handrail – which people can use to traverse the stairs in the safest possible way. Remember the earlier rule (good leg goes to heaven, bad leg goes to hell) well, that still applies, but now you are going to be holding the railing in one hand, for an extra level of safety:
To use crutches safely in the stairs — hold the handrail. Here’s how:
- Hold both crutches in one hand. If you have axillary crutches, and large enough hands, you can hold on to two crutches in one hand. Just place your crutches beside each other and squeeze them together with your upper arm. Extend your fingertips under the inside crutch to help with lifting it.
- A slightly better approach, hold the crutch you intend to use with your hand. While leaning against a wall or railing, rotate your unused crutch 90 degrees and hold it by its shaft near its centre of mass. Hold it in the same hand you are already holding your other crutch with. The lower part of the unused crutch could be sticking out in front of you, or trailing behind. Do whichever makes you feel more comfortable. This method is slightly easier that the first suggestion, since the shaft is typically narrower than the handle, and it works for both axillary crutches (i.e. regular shoulder crutches for North Americans) or lofstrand (i.e. forearm) crutches.
- Another common method I have seen is to literally throw your crutch up/down the stairs in front of you. This is a sort of “brute force method” since it avoids the problem of trying to hold two things in the same hand, and yet frees one hand for holding the handrail, so its win-win. Except that you have to go and pick up your crutch afterwards, and who knows how much it may scratch up the floor.
I hope you have found this article useful. Many people struggle to find ways to reduce their risk of falling in stairs. If you have an alternative method, please share your stories! Warn others about about any close calls you have had down in the comments!
I know what you’re thinking: “Someone should have invented smarter crutches by now”
I was thinking the same thing. So, incase you haven’t guessed by now, we have developed a new product to solve this and many other common issues for crutch users.
The product is called crutchgecko. It can help you overcome all of the above problems related to climbing stairs with crutches. If you want to learn more the product can be found here: https://crutchgecko.com/index.php/product/crutchgecko/