Axillary versus Forearm Crutches: A Prospective Cohort Comparing which is Superior for 3-Point Crutch Gait
Introduction: Two common crutches utilised for orthopaedic rehabilitation include the axillary crutch and forearm crutch, with either crutch providing weight transfer through different mechanisms. This study aims to determine which crutch is best for patients, with specific reference to crutch gait and stability.
Materials and Methods: This is a level 2 prospective cohort study, recruiting 20 volunteers between 40 to 80 years old. Participants underwent 3 stations in 3 point crutch gait: straight line ambulation of 20m, timed-up-and-go-test, and computerised dynamic posturography. Participants also answered a subjective questionnaire on their crutch preferences.
Results: Axillary crutches demonstrated a faster speed of ambulation compared to forearm crutches (Axillary crutch v=0.5m/s, Forearm crutch v=0.44m/s, p=0.002). There was a lower increase in heart rate post activity for axillary crutches. For the timed-up-and-go test, completing the circuit with Axillary crutches was faster (t=63.06, p<0.001) versus the forearm crutch (t=75.36, p<0.001). For computerised dynamic posturography, participants recorded lower effort scores for backward tilts when using axillary crutches (39.13, p=0.0497) versus forearm crutches (42.03, p=0.0497). Subjectively, majority of participants felt that axillary crutches had an easier learning curve and were superior in the areas of ambulation, balance and stability.
Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that axillary crutches were superior to forearm crutches for 3-point crutch gait; axillary crutches had a faster ambulation speed, required less effort during use, provided superior stability and were the preferred choice subjectively. This study would be helpful for clinicians and therapists when prescribing mobility aids to individuals with impaired gait.
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