People without the use of one of their legs need to use a substitute for walking. Something needs to support the body’s weight while the useful leg lifts the foot off the ground to advance forward.
That substitute is a crutch. No doubt the basic idea goes back to the Paleolithic era. Cave people who broke a leg while running over rough territory, or perhaps had foot or leg injured by a wild animal or in a fight, undoubtedly tried using large sticks to help them get around while recovering. However, just holding on to a stick does not give a person the leverage needed to hold up their body weight to functionally replace the injured limb. Someone naturally must try to rest their body’s weight on top of the stick. With a stick that’s short enough, they can use the meat of their palm. With a longer stick, they can jam the upper end into their armpit.
Makeshift Crutches are hard on Underarms
However, these solutions are mechanically awkward and painful. Even cave people must have devised some kind of crosspiece to form a T shape, to go under the arm pit more comfortably. Eventually people learned to carve wood into serviceable designs to accommodate lost limb function.
Walking sticks and canes are therefore related to crutches, but simply aid people who need help keeping their balance while walking.
Leg and foot injuries can be either temporary or permanent. Modern medicine can generally heal broken legs, but not replace them if lost or severely crushed.
Modern technology and manufacturing has greatly improved the design and functionality of crutches. Instead of wood, they are now made of aluminum or plastic, both stronger and lighter in weight than wood.
Also important are the crutch grips, which the person must hold on to. They must be designed for both comfort and long-term durability.
Types of Crutches:
1. Forearm or Loftstrand
This type has a loop or cuff which fits around the person’s forearm to hold it in place. It has a horizontal grip the person holds on to. The cuffs may be a full or half circle, with a V-shape opening so if the person falls their forearm easily slips out.
2. Underarm of Axilla
The padded and rounded end goes against the ribcage under the arm, taking the body’s weight. About midway down there’s a grip the person holds on to.
These are for people without strong grips. Their arm is strapped onto a horizontal platform.
4. Leg Support
These are a support structure only for patients with an injury to their lower leg. That is kept raised, and the weight is born by the same leg’s knee or thigh, which is higher up, not born by the arm or ribcage.