Crutches can help you keep off weight your bad knee after you have had knee surgery. but they’re not the coolest assistive walking devices to walk around with and might even feel uncomfortable. So, you might wonder when you should stop using them and get your freedom back.
Ideally, you should stop using crutches at 6 weeks after the knee surgery. At this point, your knee will have gained remarkable improvements in motion and strength, and the swelling and pain will have gone down.
Keep reading to discover more information on when to drop off your crutches, how to wean off crutches, how to transition from crutches to walking, and other information related to using crutches.
When can I stop using crutches after knee surgery?
As we have just mentioned, you should stop using your crutches approx. 6 weeks from the time you had the knee surgery. However, some folks drop them off as early as 4 weeks after surgery, so the right period is 4-6 weeks after the knee procedure.
There’s also a general rule for using crutches that goes like this: If you can walk without limp, then you’re clear to stop using crutches.
This 6-week duration is considered the right time to dump those assistive walking devices because your knee will have developed some good level of healing in both strength and range of motion, and you can even resume most of your normal activities without any problems.
However, the healing progress will only be possible in the sixth week if you have been following your physiotherapist’s advice on exercises.
We also advise you to first consult your PT and surgeon before you put down your crutches and resume your normal activities.
Some of the activities that you can resume at this stage include:
- House chores: You can start doing everyday light tasks in your house such as cleaning and cooking. However, you should avoid engaging in heavy tasks like changing the beds and vacuuming.
- Walking: You can start working on your feet now that you have set aside the assistive walking devices. Avoid standing for long, however, as this can cause your ankle to swell. You should also avoid bending down or stretching up during the first 6 weeks
- Resuming work: if you have desk work, you can also resume it at this point. If your work involves lifting, walking, or traveling, however, you might want to wait a little longer—up to 3 months.
- Driving: most people can also resume driving at 6 weeks after the surgery. If you can easily bend your knee to get in and out of your car easily and you can control the car properly, then it’s safe to resume driving. But make sure your consult your surgeon first.
You should keep in mind that you have NOT fully recovered at this stage, though. For instance, the pain and swelling might only have gone down and but still be there. It might take up to 3 months for it to settle down completely.
Sometimes, the swelling can disappear completely after a year.
Even after you have put aside the crutches, your knee will continue with the recovery journey for up to 2 years after the operation. During this period, exercise will help heal the scar tissue and restore your muscles.
As your PT will advise you, however, it’s good to avoid extreme movements or sports as they can cause re-injury. Specifically, you should avoid extreme sports where the risk of falling is high, e.g. mountain biking or skiing.
What can you do to get off the crutches sooner?
If you want to get off those crutches sooner, then you need to show full commitment to your physiotherapist’s advice.
For instance, if your doctor needs you to be strictly non-weight bearing, then stick to that. Go against this and step with your bad knee, and you’ll only be pressuring it and undoing some healing during the early days of recovery. This will mean a longer recovery process and will warrant you more time on the crutches.
If your PT recommends certain exercises to quicken the recovery process, then be sure to commit to them.
Remember your ultimate goal is to heal faster and get off the crutches. And the sooner you get off these crutches, the stronger you become. The stronger you become, the less the risk of getting an injury.
The more committed you’re, the less time it will take to heal and dump your crutches.
You should also talk to your doctor about getting off the crutches sooner. In most cases, your doctor would want to stick to the standard procedure of say 4 to 6 weeks.
Consider asking your doc if there’s anything you can do to accelerate the healing process and stop using the crutches.
Where possible, let the doctor examine you more frequently to increases your chances of getting a more accurate assessment of when you have started healing and are ready for crutch-less walking.
Just let your doc know you want fast-track and you’ll get off the crutches much sooner!
How to wean off crutches after knee surgery
After showing commitment and following your doctor’s advice, then your PT will most likely recommend a change in your weight-bearing status on the 4th – 6th week.
They’ll also relieve you of the crutches. The weaning process should take approx. 2 weeks to help you stop using the assistive devices safely and easily
Using information from JoeCooper Orthopedic surgery, we have come up with the following schedule on how you can weak off crutches.
|Days:||Body weight (%):||No. of crutches to use:|
|1 & 2||20||Both|
|3 & 4||30||Both|
|5 & 6||40||Both|
|7 & 8||50||Both|
|9 & 10||70||One|
|11 & 12||80||One|
|13 & 14||100||Transition off crutch|
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this schedule:
- you should have the protective brace on throughout this process (i.e. if your PT gave you one).
- Use your bathroom scale to help you easily estimate the amount of weight you place on your leg
- To calculate the % body weight, multiply the body weight in pounds by either .25, .5, .75
- After reaching the full weight bearing (FWB) stage, continue using your brace for another full week and then discontinue it.
How do you transition from crutches to walking?
Having used your crutches for so many days, it can be hard to let them go when the time to start walking again comes. You don’t trust your bad knee to walk on itself and you feel it’s safer to cling to the crutches.
But you’ll have to face the reality— which is, you won’t be forever on your crutches. At some point, you’ll have to forget them completely.
In this part, we’ll discuss some important tips that will help make the transition easy for you.
Start out at home
Probably the best place to start transitioning off your crutches is at home—where you feel the most comfortable with your surroundings.
Learning to walk without them at home will be easier as you’ll be grabbing onto anything if need be. As you slowly resume various activities (as listed in our previous section), learn to lose your crutches.
As you get ready in the bathroom, as you cook in the kitchen, etc. learn to lose the assistive walking devices, and soon enough, you’ll have the confidence to walk all by yourself again.
Walk with one crutch
Another way to make transitioning from crutches to walking stage easy for you is to transit from two crutches to just one.
When your weak knee has gained some strength along the recovery process, you can consult your PT on whether to dump one crutch and start gradual weaning off with only one.
In this case, you’ll need to use the crutch on the opposite side of your weak knee. When walking, move the crutch forward at the same time you step forward with your bad knee.
This will help ensure you don’t put too much weight and pressure on your weak leg and risk re-injury. This will help you slowly move to walk without crutches.
Start weight bearing
If you have been 100% non-weight bearing, then you should have your PT offer you expert advice on how to transition to some protected partial weight bearing. You don’t want to jump straight to walking from a strict period of 100% non-weight bearing as you can easily re-injured and go back to step 1!
Before you can start walking, you might also try moving back and forth from one foot to the other. This will help you feel the transfer of weight and remember how it feels. With practice, this trick can help you get back to walking.
Transitioning from crutches to walking well again can take time. The process is gradual and you can’t wake up on your 6th week, ditch them and start walking again. However, by paying attention to your body, giving yourself time to strengthen your muscles and get them from inactivity to being used to coordinated again, you’ll be able to walk normally again.
The right time to stop using crutches can be anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks after the knee procedure. Dropping off the crutches doesn’t mean you have fully recovered and you still need to show care to your bad knee to prevent re-injury. We have offered you some helpful information on how to easily stop using crutches and train yourself to walk normally again.
Remember, the ultimate best advice you’ll get regarding the use of crutches should be from your surgeon and physiotherapist. It’s good to consult them to ensure you’re doing the right thing and not risking reinjuring your knee or derailing its recovery process.
Wish you a quick recovery!
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