By Prodyut Das

How to Avoid Arm Pain When Using Crutches

by Ed Kienzler
(Greenview Illinois )

I have to use crutches and sometimes a walker due to a broken foot/ankle with NWB for at least another month. I need info on relieving extreme pain in my shoulder blade area caused by the use of the crutches as I was taught to use them by a PT and I don't think I used them properly...any advice please??

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May 31, 2015
Methods to Lessen Arm Pain When Using Crutches

Hi Ed Kienzler,

Thanks for posting your query here. I will try to help you out here with your problem.

First, check that the settings of the crutch are correct: the elbow should be at an angle between 20-30 degrees, with the length of the crutch resting 4in-6in in front and to the side of either foot.

Keep Underarms off the Crutch Pad. The axillary pad at the top of each crutch should not touch the underarms as you move around. Each pad should be set 1.5 to 2 inches below the armpits as you stand with your shoulders at ease. The pads are only to stabilize the crutch between your inner arm and the side of your upper torso, not to carry your weight. When you aren't moving, resist the temptation to slump down onto the axillary pads. The armpits are not designed to support your body's weight. Keeping your weight off the crutch pad lessens arm pain by removing harmful pressure on the brachial plexus nerves that run along your armpit and down the inside of your arm.

Overuse of the forearm muscles can lead to tendonitis. Pain felt towards the outer aspect of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis) may be related to too much tension within the extensors of the forearm, whereas pain in the inner aspect (medial epicondylitis) may be related to the flexors of the forearm. In your case i guess the pectorals muscles are getting inflamed and tight due to excessive weight bearing, specially due to forward trunk bending posture on crutch. Try to correct that forward bent posture, and maintain a straight upright trunk.

Stretching these pectoral muscles (for 10 minutes every hour) can reduce tension. If the pain is acute, ice the area. Sometimes, covering the grip of your crutches with layers of tape can help, as the inclination to grip hard is lessened.

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