It’s not easy to compare two options where one couldn’t simply be better or greater than the other. And you realize it while comparing two popular post-surgery mobility aids such as the crutches and the walker.
The walker is considered the primary mobility aid used for 1 to 4 weeks after surgery. Then the patient is prescribed to progress to crutches once the balance is improved. Some doctors, especially outside the US, prescribe crutches or a cane directly to patients with limited mobility issues.
So sticking to a walker or opting for the crutches directly, which should you go for? This article will determine which of these mobility aids work better after knee surgery based on different factors like stability, comfortability, convenience, etc.
What are Crutches and Where Does It Excel
Crutches are a type of walking aid that takes the weight off the injured leg and provides support while walking. They’re used in both pairs or singly. Two common types of crutches are Underarm or Axillary crutches and Forearm or Lofstrand crutches.
If your knee surgery needs a short-term rehabilitation, the doctors mostly suggest axillary crutches. However, forearm crutches are more comfortable, and many seem to use these crutches directly even without using a walker. People outside the US (like in the UK) tend to use crutches more than a walker or a cane. However, some start with walkers and soon shift to crutches for flexible walking styles and gaits.
- Works as an excellent walking aid for people with good upper mobility
- It helps you walk with even strides
- Faster ambulation speed
- Acts as a form of exercise while recuperating from surgery
- Difficult but possible to navigate stairs
- Requires upper body strength which can cause fatigue
- Difficult to maneuver if the body balance is poor
When and How Long Do You Need Crutches After Knee Surgery
According to Post-operative instructions from California Orthopedics and Spine, not every surgeon prescribes their patient’s crutches after surgery. Generally, patients with limited mobility issues can start using a cane or crutches after surgery. They suggest using crutches with tolerated weight-bearing while ambulating.
According to the Orthopedic Specialist of North Country, regarding how long you should use crutches after surgery, the general timeline is around 2 to 7 days after surgery for an arthroscopic knee repair.
But you may have to use crutches for a couple of weeks for a total knee replacement surgery. In most cases, you may be given the walker on the first day after surgery, but you can use crutches for around a week from the second day onwards.
What is Walker and Where Does It Excel
The walker (also known as a walking frame) is a walking assistive device that provides support and helps maintain balance while ambulating. It includes a freestanding metal frame with four contact points with the ground. They’re available in both wheeled and non-wheeled versions and have an opening where the user can stand and hold the frame with both wrists.
Generally, doctors prescribe front-wheel knee walkers during the non-weight bearing period of the recovery process after surgery. That means the walker takes the pressure off your injured leg so that you don’t have to put any weight on it.
A patient progresses to crutches or cane once they can balance and coordinate after surgery. But if someone wants to use a walker throughout the recovery process, they can. Before deciding, you can check out its advantages and disadvantages over crutches.
- Requires less to no upper body strength
- Provides safe walking with more stability and balance
- Easy to walk longer since it reduces weight-bearing
- Provides extra support that’s often needed immediately after surgery
- Extra stress on the wrist and hands
- It can’t be used to climb stairs
When and How Long Do You Need a Walker After Knee Surgery
If your mobility is badly affected and you’ve undergone major knee surgery, you’re most likely using a walker. Saint Luke’s Health Care System prescribes using a walker after knee replacement. Your physical therapist or the health care team will help you find the right walker for your condition.
After knee replacement surgery, you may be prescribed to use a walker for 2 to 4 weeks. After that, when you can balance yourself, you may be asked to use an assistive device for taking even strides like the crutches until you can walk without a limp. But if the condition is good enough, you may not need anything at all.
Which One’s Better: Crutches Vs. Walker
The crutches and knee walkers can help you recover safely and comfortably after surgery. But which one to use is dictated by a few factors such as type of injury, the knee surgeon’s preference, the patient’s preference, and geographical practice.
So deciding which one’s better is pretty subjective. Someone would prefer walkers primarily because it provides excellent support to people with serious mobility issues. On the other hand, people who have mild problems or overcome the non-weight bearing periods prefer to use crutches directly for ambulating faster with even strides.
But after considering all the factors, we suggest our readers start with a walker and progress to crutches after surgery. Crutches are an assistive device that you’ll need in some phase of the recovery process.
If you’ve undergone knee or hip replacement surgery, you should strictly follow the physician’s recommendations for a successful recovery. Your orthopedic surgeon or PT will most probably recommend a walker or a pair of crutches after the surgery as an assistive walking device.
Walkers are prescribed in the non-weight-bearing period, whereas crutches work best in the partial weight-bearing period. So you’ll most likely start with a walker and shift to crutches once your balance improves. But if it’s alright to put some weight on your injured limb, you can opt for crutches directly.
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