Get Back On Your Feet Faster With My 6 Step Broken Leg Healing Guide

I learned everything about life on crutches the hard way - so you don't have to!

How to Choose Crutches (And Alternatives If You Can't Use Them)

I had a lot of problems with crutches after I broke my leg. After my surgery, I was given elbow crutches - also known as Canadian crutches or forearm crutches - and I HATED them. I then tried armpit crutches which suited me a lot better... (but nothing was as good as my rolling office chair).

As I didn't know that were any alternatives to the crutches I was given by the hospital, I've written this to help you if you find yourself in the same position.

Well, hopefully not exactly the same position - I was lying in bed unable to walk and almost completely unable to use my crutches at all when I started researching alternatives!

Forearm Crutches (also known as Elbow Crutches, Canadian Crutches, Lofstrand Crutches)

Forearm crutches are the most modern version of crutches, with poles that reach halfway up your forearms and a loose plastic circle or semi-circle that goes just under your elbow. They're not that common for temporary leg injuries in the USA but almost exclusively used for broken legs in the rest of the world.

I have strong feelings about this kind of crutches. Technically, I am told they are supposed to be vastly superior to underarm crutches, giving you better and more upright posture, easier to use on stairs and different terrain.

I found them completely the opposite. I found them wobbly, unstable, difficult to use, requiring a ridiculous amount of upper body strength, and impossible to prop up against anything because of their weird top-heavy balance.

And then, they gave me a shoulder injury. Halfway through my recovery, I couldn't use the forearm crutches without intense pain shooting up from my elbow to shoulder. I threw the forearm crutches in a closet, and switched to old style armpit crutches.

Armpit Crutches (also know as Underarm Crutches)

My surgeon thought it was hilarious that I liked using underarm crutches (why are you using those medieval things, he asked me).

But with them, I could:

  • Easily lean them up against a wall (eg, in the toilet) without them falling over.
  • Temporarily keep them my armpits if I needed to use my hands while standing up (like to cook or brush my teeth).
  • Be more stable going up and down stairs (I nearly fell over twice with forearm crutches).
  • Transfer weight from my hands to my armpits if I needed to rest rather relying solely on my forearm strength

They do have some downsides to be aware of:

  • You aren't supposed to constantly rest them in your armpits, as they can cause rubbing and even worse - nerve damage - from the pressure. I was really careful not to rest my entire body weight on my armpits when walking and instead kind of clamped them under my upper arms.
  • Posture with underarm crutches is not as good. Personally I didn't find much of a difference, as with both sets of crutches I was usually looking at the ground to make sure of the surface rather moving along with a dancer's posture.

Other Alternatives to Crutches

There are quite a few other crutches alternatives, depending on your injury and disposable income. Most of them aren't available in my country - but if you do live in a country with Amazon you have options.

Knee Walkers (aka Knee Scooters)

These are a great option if you have a broken ankle and can bend your knee and put weight on the bent knee. It's basically a scooter with a knee pad, where you rest the knee of your injured leg and push yourself around with the healthy leg.

Walking Frames (aka Zimmer frames, Walkers)

Usually associated with older people after a hip operation, these are a possible option if you don't have the balance or stability to use crutches, and you don't need to go up and down stairs.

There were several times when I wished I had a walking frame that I could push around the house without having to rely on my arms to drag my entire body weight around.


If you don't have upper body strength at all, then a wheelchair might be the way to go. I think in most cases, unless you have a very disabled-friendly home and someone to push you around, a wheelchair is probably going to be a difficult option.

Rolling Office Chair (Wheeled Office Chair)

The most ghetto but most easily available option! After I injured my shoulder with the forearm crutches, I also bought an office chair with wheels so I could scoot around the house without any pressure on my arms at all.

This was an absolute game-changer and transformed my recovery. Suddenly I could quickly get to the front door to open it, I could make and carry a cup of tea of coffee from the kitchen to the couch - plus I could sit at the dining table to eat and work. If my arms were tired or sore, I could switch to the chair to move around.

I did have to be careful of not relying on the chair entirely (tempting though it was), and switched to crutches several times a day for walking practice.

Whatever kind of crutches or assistance you decide to use, I hope your recovery is goes well! If you want to find out how to heal your fracture as fast as possible, check out the 6 Step Tibia Healing Guide.

Who Am I?

Hi, I'm Kate Hill. I had a skiing accident and smashed by tibial plateau in a dozen pieces, leading to major surgery and then months on crutches.

I spent that time researching EVERYTHING about my injury and recovery, and was back on my feet walking again in almost record time.

I've put it all together in a guide called The 6 Steps to Faster Tibia Healing - so you don't have to go through what I went through.

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