If you were about to cancel an upcoming trip because you require crutches for mobility, don’t do it. Crutches, especially if you aren’t used to them, can make traveling challenging, risky, and tiresome, but with the right tips, you can overcome those challenges.
Avoid using a suitcase when traveling and use a backpack instead. Carrying or dragging a suitcase when you have crutches is impractical and dangerous and can aggravate an injury. A backpack or crutch bags are more suitable alternatives.
This piece will further detail why using a backpack is the best way to carry your luggage when using crutches. It will also provide tips on how to travel safely when using crutches.
Use a Backpack Instead of a Suitcase
Using crutches changes how you move; don’t expect an activity like dragging a suitcase to be just as easy as before. Things you previously considered routine can become a lot more difficult when using crutches.
Crutches make carrying or dragging things difficult because they occupy the hands. You can move and carry light objects like a box of cereal by freeing two or three fingers from one handle, but this method won’t work with a suitcase.
You can also carry a slightly heavier object under your armpit by slotting the item under your armpit and letting a bit of its weight rest on the crutch’s top cuff. This method is safe and convenient but ineffective with an object as large as a suitcase.
Here’s a video on how to carry an object under your armpit:
When traveling using crutches, use a backpack instead of a suitcase. A backpack frees your hands and arms, placing the weight of the luggage on your shoulders.
Using a backpack reduces the chances of an accident due to imbalance and facilitates efficient transportation of your luggage. A backpack is especially essential if you are traveling alone.
Furthermore, a heavy backpack will likely tire you faster, which can be inconvenient in a large airport. The extra burden might cause psychological stress, affecting your mood, likely aggravating your physical distress, and ruining your journey before it begins properly.
Therefore, pack your backpack with essentials only.
Use Crutch Bags With Velcro Straps
If you want to travel without extra weight on your back, consider using a crutch bag. Velcro straps suspend the bags on the crutches’ handles, facilitating seamless movement and transportation of objects.
Crutch bags are small and can often only fit essential items. They are a handy option when traveling extremely light.
You can pair a backpack with a crutch bag to reduce the luggage in your backpack or increase your luggage-carrying capacity. With a backpack and two crutch bags, you have enough space for items essential to your trip.
If you pair a backpack with a crutch bag, use the smaller bag to ferry items you need to access often, like your phone, water, or earphones. Let the bag carry the things you’ll need later in your trip or when you arrive at your destination.
Tips on Traveling Safely With Crutches
My advice to ditch a suitcase for a backpack and crutch bag is based on guaranteeing your safety when traveling. Crutches are an efficient way to remain mobile but can be dangerous if misused.
Crutches are one of the most prescribed orthotic aids, proving that medical professionals trust them as solutions to mobility issues. Nevertheless, accidents and complications happen when using crutches.
Some complications arising from crutch use include the following:
- Nerve paralysis in the armpits
- Skin irritation
- Muscle pain
These complications are more likely to arise when you are traveling because of extended crutch use. However, the following tips should help reduce the likelihood of an accident or injury when traveling with crutches:
Inform Transport Services of Your Disability
Informing the transport services ahead of time can alleviate a lot of stress when using crutches. After planning your itinerary, contact the different transport providers to find out how they can better accommodate you.
For instance, calling the airport and booking special assistance can significantly improve your experience at the terminal. Special assistance is a service airlines provide to ease the movement of passengers with disabilities.
Airlines design the service depending on the needs of a person. For instance, a person with clutches might get a wheelchair and an airport employee to help them through security and onto the plane.
The service is also available during arrival at the destination. Booking special assistance can come in handy, especially if there is a short layover time between two flights.
A short layover will force you to rush, which isn’t a good idea when using clutches on slippery airport floors. Having someone push you along while sorting the light luggage you carried can prove priceless.
Different airlines have different rules governing the booking of special assistance. Most airports require you to register for the service 48 hours before arrival, while others require 72-hour notification. To avoid missing out, book this service as soon as you confirm your flight.
Inform all transport services and hotels you’ll use about your use of crutches. Calling ahead of time allows the service provider to tailor their offerings to your needs.
For instance, a hotel can provide a disabled room or a room on the ground floor to reduce the distance you need to cover using your crutches. Most rental buses and shuttles also accommodate people using crutches, but it’ll cost you little and perhaps gain you a lot if you call to confirm.
Leave Early To Reduce Pressure
Using crutches reduces speed, so it makes sense that you leave early to avoid inconvenience and reduce the pressure on your shoulders.
Plan to leave half an hour or an hour earlier than you typically would, especially if you failed to book the airport’s special assistance service. You’ll likely have to traverse the long and slippery floors on crutches, which you should do carefully and slowly to reduce the risk of an accident.
Top Tip: You can jump the queue at security or passport control when using crutches. Look for the slot with a wheelchair sign and inform the staff that you can’t stand on your clutches for a long time in the line. The staff will consider your request, process you as quickly as possible, and allow you to be on your way.
Arriving at the airport early is advisable if you’d booked special assistance. With help from the staff, you’ll be one of the first people to board the airplane. Furthermore, you’ll get to place your bag and crutches in the overhead compartment without pressure from other passengers.
Choose Grippy Shoes To Provide Extra Support
I’ve mentioned slippery airport floors and the danger they pose to people on crutches. It’s easy to slip while using crutches on airport floors.
One way to prevent this is to wear grippy or rubber-soled shoes. They ensure that your good foot has enough traction to keep you upright.
You can also increase grip by purchasing grippier crutch tips. Grippy crutch tips are designed to provide grip on wet or snowy surfaces. Airport floors aren’t as dangerous as snowy or wet surfaces, but having crutch tips that provide extra traction can prove worthwhile.
It’ll cost you less to purchase a crutch tip than it will to take care of an additional injury caused by a slip.
Even with the grippiest shoes and crutch tips, it’s best to avoid staircases. Crutches and staircases are mortal enemies that conspire to pile further misery on the crutch user.
Using stairs while on crutches is a hazardous activity since a slight mistake or nudge can lead to a sudden loss of balance. Unfortunately, circumstances might force you to use stairs.
If you have to use the stairs, get as close to the staircase as possible and use the crutches to lift your good foot onto the first step. Place your weight on the foot, move the crutches to the same step, and repeat until you clear the staircase.
Book Comfortable Seats and Rides
One crucial thing you want to avoid is compromising the healing of an injured limb. Therefore, it’s vital to book comfortable seats and rides.
It’ll likely cost you more to choose a higher traveling class, but the extra cash you pay will prove worth it. Extra space allows you to rest your limbs properly before you need to use the crutches again.
Most forms of public transport can accommodate people with crutches, but I’d advise you to hire a cab if your budget allows it. If you must use the bus, board it via the driver’s door, so they can see there’s a person with crutches on the bus.
Finally, find a companion to travel with you. It pays to have a person providing assistance throughout the trip.
Carrying Everyday Items When Using Crutches
Crutches make moving when nursing an injury easier but make other activities like carrying items more difficult. However, moving everyday items like food and coffee while using crutches is easy if you have the right equipment.
Moving food – or anything else really – while using crutches becomes more difficult because the hands are an essential part of the movement with crutches. With the hands occupied, grabbing a plate of food is challenging.
You can use your middle finger, pointer, and thumb (aka the three-finger hold) to move objects like cereal boxes, a book, or a milk carton. However, the three-finger hold is too weak to hold a plate.
Abandon plates and use boxes to carry your food while on crutches. If the food is stored in a box, you can transport it using the three-finger hold or slot it under your armpit.
Cooking is inadvisable for a person with crutches, with takeout being the best option. Thankfully, takeout comes in boxes or light bags that are easy to carry.
If you must use a plate, place it on a rolling table and nudge it to wherever you want to eat.
Using crutches effectively eliminates the use of ordinary cups. Carrying your morning coffee using a regular cup while using crutches would likely lead to a painful accident.
The solution is to purchase a spill-proof cup or a flask to carry beverages. With either, you can carry hot or cold drinks using the three-finger grip.
To make transportation easier, purchase one with a loop near the cap. You can also transport a flask using a crutch bag.
If you are not the type to stay indoors even when recovering from an injury, prepare to get rained on. As a precaution, purchase rain crutch tips to give you extra traction when the rain gets you.
It is impossible to carry an umbrella when using crutches. Therefore, the best option for you is a raincoat and a waterproof backpack.
You can also learn to get used to the feeling of rain on your skin. Artists occasionally release tunes about the softness and gentleness of summer rain; since you’ll likely get rained on when using crutches, why don’t you use the opportunity to find out why the summer rain gets such fervent praise?
While on crutches, do not let your trash accumulate too much before taking it out. If the bag is too heavy, you’ll experience more difficulty taking it out to the trash can. You should, therefore, temporarily consider using smaller trash bags that you can dispose of easily.
Hauling a suitcase while using crutches is impractical and risky, which is why I strongly advise against it. I recommend you use a backpack to transport your luggage.
Only carry essential items in your backpack to prevent fatigue and a potential loss of balance when using crutches. You can pair the backpack with crutch bags – use the crutch bags to carry items you regularly need, like your phone, and the backpack to move things you’ll likely need when you get to your destination.
- JohnSundquist: How to carry things with crutches
- iWalk Free: How to carry anything from luggage to laundry with crutches
- Orthogate: Temporary weight-bearing injuries and the danger or crutches
- eSky: Special assistance at the airport: what is it and how to order it?
- Cool Crutches: Top tips for traveling on crutches
- Just Walkers: How not to use crutches – 5 common mistakes
- Greatist: The ultimate guide to surviving life on crutches (happily)
- Lifebeyond4limbs.com: Ten ways to carry things when using crutches to walk
- World Crutches: How to carry anything on crutches