The Fine Art of Crutch Walking


Today I received the terrific news that I have graduated down to one crutch. Of course crutches are a necessary evil for anyone recovering from surgery, especially when a broken bone is involved, but nobody likes them.

When I first hobbled along after surgery, the crutches felt awkward and unnatural. I felt like I could topple at any given moment. My heart would race each time someone walked toward me without giving me a wide berth, worried that I wouldn’t be able to react to them. I even discovered much later that I was using them wrong.

I hated the crutches, yet over the course of the nine weeks, I became quite versatile with them. Even this week I marveled at how I opened and held a few doors for people, something that would have been unthinkable weeks ago.

I learned to use them differently depending on the situation. Here are a number of the different type of crutch walks that I developed over time:

The Frankenstein Stomp — This was a slow walk, where I would place the crutches down together in tandem with a big CLANK for each step. People could hear me coming a mile away, and if were not for the distinctive sound of the crutches hitting the ground, they may have been afraid for their life.

The Trapeze — If I was particularly sore and wanted to put no weight on my legs, this was the walk I would go with. I would fling the crutches forward and let my body swing through them, like a swinging trapeze. This was also by far the fastest of the walks. If I wanted to, I could book it, even though it put a lot of pressure on my underarms.

The Chop Sticks — If I needed to be precise in my footing, my legs and crutches would become one, and choose my footing with careful precision. If I had to travel in a minefield, this would be the way I would do it.

The Heavy Door Sprint — One thing I learned when walking on crutches is that not all doors are created equally. Some are light and will open and close seamlessly, while others are heavy and if not careful, will slam shut quickly. I learned to watch for these, and upon opening and releasing, would almost hop with the crutches in order to save my behind.

The Sideways Creep — Often I would have to pass through a narrow area that wouldn’t allow me to walk in the traditional way. For this I would have to turn sideways, place crutches on both sides, and sort of lean in the direction I needed to go, tiptoeing my way through it. This was used quite often during the Jeopardy trip both on the airplane and in the TV studio.

The Armpit Flail — No matter how much you try not to, in nine weeks you are going to have to carry something at some point. When this happens, you have to use your armpits as your hands to guide the crutches, and flail them wildly forward. This was not a very graceful walk, and by far the slowest. The biggest challenge was using this technique to carry coffee back to my desk, which I didn’t dare try on my own until 4 weeks post-op.

Now that I am on one crutch, life is easier. I can carry stuff. I can navigate heavy doors. I can probably even walk through a movie theater aisle without worrying about smacking someone in the head.

It’s been an experience, albeit one that I won’t miss.

One response to “The Fine Art of Crutch Walking

  • cyardin

    This is funny – all the names for the different crutch manouevres. I remember when I had to use them after my knee reconstruction and constantly clobbering people in the shins when I was in tight spaces. Aw well… Keep up the recovery.

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