Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) don’t suffer from severe disability. However, in some, MS leads to significant impairments in gait, posture, muscle strength, muscle tone and sensation.
It’s estimated that up to 50% of people with MS will develop walking difficulties at some point. As a result, they may require a cane and, later, crutches to aid walking.
People with MS often name mobility limitations as one of their greatest challenges, and failure to use a walking aid may significantly increase an MS sufferer’s risk for falls. This may lead to severe, even life-threatening injury. In addition, one bad fall may trigger a chronic fear of falling, which may lead to reduced participation in pleasurable or work activities.
Crutches are a practical, lightweight walking aid. They’re relatively easy to use and transport, and they’re particularly useful if you have balance problems, or if you suffer from weakness, stiffness or spasms.
If you haven’t used crutches before, they may take some getting used to. Your doctor or physiotherapist can show you exactly how to use them. It’s also important that they’re set to the correct height for you. The handles should be at hip level.
A few steps to keep in mind:
– Always wear comfortable, non-slip shoes.
– Squeeze the crutches between your upper arm and ribs.
– Take the weight through your hands.
– Move the crutches forward, and make sure you place them on a non-slippery, solid surface.
– Move your weak or stiff leg forward (put this foot on an even par with the crutches), put as much weight as you’re comfortable with on this leg, taking the rest of the weight through your arms and hands (press hard on the hand grips).
– Step past with your stronger leg.
– Look forward when you’re walking, and not down.
– Go slowly.
– Avoid stairs until you’re completely comfortable with your crutches.
A good starting point is standard crutches. However, you might find that forearm crutches, specifically designed to cut the risk of pressure sores under the arms, are a better option.