What are Elbow Crutches?

Britt Archer

Elbow crutches, sometimes known as forearm crutches, are a supportive device used to aid people in the task of walking. A common elbow crutch has a cuff that wraps around the forearm, approximately an inch or two beneath the elbow. There is a handgrip that allows the user to hold on to the crutches with the elbow bent at a 30-degree angle when walking. Many elbow crutches are adjustable, allowing for variances in height and gait among the wide array of people who need walking aids.

Elbow crutches employ a cuff wrapped around the forearm.
Elbow crutches employ a cuff wrapped around the forearm.

Elbow and arm crutches function in a similar manner as a more common type of crutch--the underarm or axillary crutch. Both of these mobility aids can ease pain when walking due to injury, illness or disability. When walking with both types of crutches, the weight of the body is supported by the handgrips. On underarm crutches, support is added by a padded bar that reaches the armpit. The users of elbow crutches are given support by the cuff that is wrapped around the forearm.

Mobility aids such as elbow crutches may be necessary after severe injuries or as debilitating diseases progress.
Mobility aids such as elbow crutches may be necessary after severe injuries or as debilitating diseases progress.

The issue of comfort is one that concerns people who need to use crutches for an extended period of time. Elbow crutches are often prescribed or recommended due to their ease of use and unimposing, more comfortable support mechanism. They can be purchased from nearly any store that specializes in medical supplies, as well as obtained from doctors, hospitals and charity aid organizations.

For people who need crutches indefinitely, there are a variety of customizations that can perform to make living with drab, standard-issue elbow crutches more bearable. This may be especially important to a child or other person who may suffer from low self-esteem or self-consciousness due to the use of walking aids. Companies have started making crutches with customized fabric cuffs, decorative colored metals and fun and funky handgrips.

The use of forearm crutches as a temporary measure is more common in Europe and Canada than in the United States and the rest of the world. This has changed, however, as more doctors see the practicality of elbow crutches and the relative comfort and ease of use as compared with other types of crutches. People who have never used crutches before may find this style easier to live with due to the relative ease with which forearm crutches allow a person to move about. For those who frequently fall, forearm crutches allow the arms to slide unscathed out of the elbow cuff so that the user can regain his bearings without being burdened by the extra appendages.

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Discussion Comments


Are elbow crutches easier to use than traditional wooden crutches?

My wife broke her ankle and she hates using the underarm crutches, as she finds that they can be really uncomfortable and awkward. On top of that they hurt her armpits making her miserable. We are also concerned about space as we don't have a lot of places to store the crutches when she isn't using them. Are folding crutches just as solid as the regular kind?

We've seen a few pictures of folding elbow crutches and they look like they would solve our space problem really easily. I just want to know if they'll hold up or not.


When I broke my leg my family decided to buy crutches for me rather than rent them, as they figured in the long run having a set of crutches in the house wouldn't be a bad idea. I'm a bit accident prone so I can certainly see my family's point.

I think if you are looking at crutches for sale it is a good idea to know what you want and need before heading into the store. There are actually a surprising amount to choose from, beyond the typical aluminum crutches. You can even have custom crutches made if you really want something that will fit you perfectly.


I recently saw an experimental dance performance where all of the dancers wore elbow crutches on both of their arms. It was really pretty incredible to see. The extended length of their arms allows them to get all kinds of crazy leverage so they can spin and manipulate their bodies in ways that would not be possible naturally.

I also like the whole idea of the show. We tend to think of crutches as an impediment, something that helps us overcome a physical obstacle. But this performance illustrated all the grace and power that is possible within the body even when it is restricted. I found myself surprisingly moved by the whole thing.


My cousin hurt herself on those underarm crutches. She was recovering from an illness that had made her very weak, and she tended to pass out at times.

She fainted while walking with underarm crutches, and they bruised her armpits badly. So, that added to her pain. Plus, she couldn't use her crutches for awhile.

Her doctor decided that elbow crutches would be the best option for her. She told me that they were so much more comfortable than the other kind. She did fall a couple of times while using them, but they did not hurt her at all.


@lighth0se33 – When you are a kid, the appearance of your crutches can make all the difference. My little sister got injured in a car wreck, and she needed crutches for three months. She didn't have to settle for plain metal ones, though.

The doctor at the hospital where she stayed showed us a catalog of elbow crutches. She found a pair that were light purple with glittery dragonflies all over them, and she had a fit!

Those elbow crutches helped her get through a difficult time. She loved them because of their pattern and colors. I think if she had gotten regular ones, she would have hated them and refused to use them.


I recall when a kid in my fourth grade class injured her leg. She didn't come to school with the typical black underarm crutches like everyone expected. She came back in style with hot pink colored elbow crutches.

We had never seen anything like them. Some of the kids in class asked her if they could try them out. It was quite a sight to see both guys and girls taking turns on hot pink crutches.

Instead of making her the object of teasing, these crutches made her cool in their eyes. The color was awesome, but even more awesome was the way they worked to provide support.


My friend's mother had polio as a child, and she is now in her sixties. She walks with elbow crutches, because she has little strength in her legs.

When my friend got married, I met her mother for the first time. She came to the rehearsal, and I saw her walking around with those elbow crutches. She seemed quite at ease with them, and I guess she had been using them for a long time.

Because of the elbow crutches, she was able to walk up the aisle at the wedding and sit on the front row where the mother is supposed to sit. I was struck by how natural this support seemed to her. In a roundabout way, these crutches served as legs driven by her arms.

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