It’s finally the day you’ve been waiting for: the day that you get to start getting rid of the crutches! Now, for some people this goes exactly the way you’re hoping your recovery will go. That is, they start walking without crutches, easy-peasy, no problems.
First of all, very few of these people actually exist. Second of all, the one or two that do? We hate them. (Just kidding. If you’re one of those people, congratulations! But don’t tell me, okay? Because then I might hate you for real. Kidding again! …as far as you know…)
Getting rid of the crutches is a process that can last anywhere from several days up to a couple of months. For most of us, it will be about 1-3 weeks, but be sure to work with your physical therapist to determine the best time frame and the speed of progression. I do this for a living, and I still rely on my PT to both push me when needed, as well as pull back the reins when I want to do too much.
Rules for Getting Off Crutches and Back to Normal Walking
- Patience, patience, patience. This is the first three rules, actually. You want to get off crutches ASAP! I get it. However, your real priority is not how fast can you get off crutches, but rather how soon can you get back to normal walking. The best way back to normal walking is to be patient enough to follow the other rules.
- Pain is telling you something. Listen to it. If your pain goes up a point or two when you start something new (for example, it was 1/10 and now it’s 2/10), that’s normal. Maybe try a little ice when you’re done. But if that pain starts to go up to 3 or 4 or more, that’s a sign that you’re overdoing. Grab some ice, rest it and go back to what you were doing before the flare up until it settles back down again. (For example, if you started using one crutch, go back to using 2).
- Remember, your hip may wait a day (or two!) before it starts to hurt. Any time you do something new on your hip, if it feels great, you want to do more and do a lot of it. However, it is not uncommon for the hip to feel great when you first try it, and then really get sore the next day. Then you have to refer back to Rule 2. Use that patience, only do what your therapist tells you, and see how it feels the next day.
- No limping. Look, if you have a few hitches in your step when you take a few steps in the kitchen or the bathroom, that’s fine. Those are good times to work on getting those hip muscles to wake up and get firing again. However, you train what you practice. You want to train a limp into your step? I didn’t think so! Practice walking well, without a limp.
There’s no secret knowledge to get you there faster. Today was the PT appointment where I got to really start working on this stuff, and my PT both laughed at me and called me obstinate! To be fair, we’ve been friends and colleagues for over 10 years; we were both laughing and she was mostly joking about the obstinate part. However, the reason that it happened is because no matter what I know, there’s no shortcut for making those muscles get back into gear. I have to follow these rules, too.