How to Find Crutches

Three Methods:Acquiring CrutchesChoosing the Right CrutchesPaying for Crutches

Crutches are a common piece of medical equipment, usually needed after sustaining injury or when recovering from surgery. They allow people to walk without putting weight on an injured leg or foot. Although doctors and hospitals can provide crutches to those they treat who need them, you do not have to stick with what they offer. To find the crutches that are right for you, you’ll need to consider how you will use them and how much you are willing to pay, and then shop around accordingly.

Method 1
Acquiring Crutches

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    Acquire crutches from your hospital or doctor. If you have had surgery or visited an orthopedist with an injury or complaint, your hospital or doctor will usually issue you a pair of crutches – typically underarm crutches in the U.S. and forearm crutches elsewhere. Before accepting them, or indeed before your surgery, ask how much they cost and how much of the cost will be covered by insurance. Some hospitals, in particular, overcharge for crutches.[1] You can save by purchasing your own.
    • The advantage of getting crutches from your hospital or doctor is that your healthcare professional will help you ensure that the crutches fit properly. If you buy them on your own, you may not buy ones that fit correctly.[2]
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    Borrow crutches. If you know someone who has had knee or ankle surgery or suffered a broken bone and recovered, they may still have their crutches. Especially if they had a nicer pair than the standard underarm crutches, this is a great way to get a good pair of crutches for free. Just make sure the crutches fit you and that they are in good repair.
    • Pay particular attention to the rubber tips on the bottoms of the crutches. They wear out quickly, but can be replaced cheaply.
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    Find crutches online. Particularly if you are looking to buy spring-loaded or articulated crutches, you will usually need to go online. Large vendors like, drug stores, and medical supply companies such as Allegro Medical and the Medical Supply Group all offer crutches for sale online, making the internet a great place to comparison shop and get the best price. However, there are two drawbacks:
    • Medicare rarely reimburses online purchases. If you have private insurance, you will need to request an invoice in order to file a claim, and your insurance company may not reimburse you.
    • It is important to try out crutches to ensure comfort and fit. If you are buying online, consider ordering several pairs of crutches and returning all but the ones you prefer. Check the store's return policy first to ensure that you can get your money back without paying high return fees.
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    Purchase crutches at a drug store or pharmacy. Most drug stores sell crutches, but be aware that your choice will be limited. Many stores offer only one type of underarm and one type of forearm crutch. Be sure to make sure the store participates in Medicaid or to contact your insurance company to make sure the crutches are covered by your insurance.
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    Get crutches from a medical supply company. Like drug stores, local medical supply companies typically only offer one type of underarm and one type of forearm crutch. However, particularly if you are borrowing a pair of crutches that needs repair, medical supply stores can be a good place to get replacement crutch tips or handles.

Method 2
Choosing the Right Crutches

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    Ask your doctor whether crutches are appropriate. Crutches require significant arm and upper body strength.[3] In some cases, crutches may not be appropriate for you. If you do not have good arm and upper body strength, or if you have a hand or wrist injury as well as a leg injury, crutches may not work for you.[4] Ask your doctor what she recommends.
    • For people who have had total knee or hip replacement surgery, or have significant balance problems, walkers offer more stability than crutches do.[5]
    • Walkers or wheelchairs may be more appropriate for the elderly.[6]
    • If you have nerve damage or visual impairment, crutches may not be the best choice for you.[7]
    • Using crutches requires learning new gait patterns, or how to walk. If you have cognitive impairment, your doctor may recommend a walker or wheelchair instead.
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    Choose the style of crutches that is right for you. Underarm crutches have a pad that is held under the arm. These are commonly prescribed, but they are usually meant for temporary use rather than long-term. Long-term use of underarm crutches can cause nerve damage or shoulder tendinitis.[8] In addition, there are several other less-often prescribed crutches that might fit your particular needs:[9]
    • Forearm/elbow crutches – Crutches with an open cuff that grips the user’s forearm. They are more difficult to master and require more strength, but also offer more control over your movement and are preferred for active patients or long-term users who will have time to build the necessary strength. They are also more comfortable as the cuff takes pressure off the wrist. People with cerebral palsy commonly use this type of crutch.[10]
    • Strutter crutches – These are a patented type of crutch similar to underarm crutches, but with a larger base to provide greater stability. They may make it more comfortable and easy to walk.[11]
    • Platform crutches – For users with a weak grip. These crutches allow uses to strap their arm to the crutches in a position that keeps their hand resting on the handle.
    • Hands free crutch – This crutch is for people with injuries below the knee. It straps to your knee when your leg is bent and acts as a peg-leg, allowing you to walk with your hands free. These crutches are usually not covered by insurance unless your doctor indicates you cannot use traditional crutches.
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    Check out the tip of the crutches. Most crutches have a rubber tip that takes your weight and prevents slipping. Always make sure the tip is unbroken. If you will be using the crutches for a long time or plan to be very active with them, consider crutches with a flexible tip or a spring-loaded tip that makes walking easier.[12]
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    Pay special attention to the handles. The handle is where you will put all your weight when you walk, so it needs to be comfortable. Padded ones are generally preferable. If you will be using crutches for a long time, consider purchasing ones with ergonomically shaped handles that fit your left and right hands.[13]
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    Make sure your crutches fit. Only purchase crutches that are adjustable.[14] Your crutches should be the correct height to ensure you can walk with upright posture and not put too much pressure on your wrists.[15]
    • Underarm crutches – When wearing shoes, the pad at the top of the crutch should be an inch or two below your armpit when the tip of the crutch is resting on the floor about 2 inches in front of your toes. The handgrip should allow for a slight bend (about 15°) of your elbow when standing normally.
    • Forearm crutches – When wearing shoes, place your arm in the crutch. When correctly adjusted, the tip of the crutch should rest on the floor when you bend your elbow (about 30 degrees) so that the crease of your wrist is level with your hips.

Method 3
Paying for Crutches

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    Buy crutches without health insurance. Basic underarm crutches typically cost $15 to $40. Forearm crutches run from about $40 to $100. Spring-loaded and articulated crutches start at $119 for the Millennial[16] and go up to as much as $1000 for deluxe models.[17][18]
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    Use health insurance. Most health insurance covers both underarm and forearm crutches. However, upgrades that are considered a convenience, and which do not “significantly enhance the functionality” of the crutches are typically not covered. This means that spring-loaded or articulated crutches are usually not covered.
    • Call your insurance company to see what they cover before purchasing crutches.
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    Acquire crutches through Medicare. All people with Medicare Part B or Part C (medical insurance) are covered for the purchase of crutches. You will pay 20% of the Medicare approved amount ($78.57 per pair for forearm crutches and $42.12 for underarm crutches[19]), and the Part B or C deductible applies. To acquire crutches through Medicare:[20]
    • The crutches must be prescribed by a medical provider participating in Medicare.
    • You must acquire the crutches from a supplier who participates in Medicare.
    • If you go to a non-Medicare doctor of supplier, Medicare will not pay the claim they submit and you will be responsible for the cost.
    • Articulated and spring-loaded crutches are not covered by Medicare.

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Categories: Injury and Accidents | Medication and Medical Equipment