Underarm vs. Forearm Crutches: which one is better for you

Let the battle begin! If you go online to find out what type of crutches are the best for you, you’re going to find mixed responses for your questions. While some people can swear that their underarm crutches are the most comfortable crutches on earth, some will say that forearm crutches should be your go-to choice.

To help you solve this riddle, we are going to show the seven main differences between underarm and forearm crutches and why we believe forearm crutches are the best option for most people.

underarm crutches vs forearm crutches

Overall health and body pressure: Some studies show that using underarm crutches for a prolonged period of time can cause axillary artery thrombosis and axillary nerve palsy. This is due to the constant pressure to the axilla by the upper part of the underarm crutches. Some underarm crutch users may also experience shoulder pain and tendinitis due to frequent use. According to the studies, this is not a recurrent problem on short-time users, but long-time and permanent users should consider other options.
Forearm crutches, on the other hand, do not present these issues, as they don’t apply pressure on the axilla or shoulders. More pressure is applied on the hands and wrists, but that might be minimized by using anatomic soft handgrips.

Posture: the prolonged use of underarm crutches is also associated with bad posture, since many users tend to slouch on the crutches when they are tired. The problem is when this behavior becomes frequent, and the body gets used to maintaining a bad posture. It can be extremely difficult to correct bad posture over time, and this might lead to pain and back injuries.
To use forearm crutches properly, you need to maintain an upright posture at all times. This might be more difficult in the beginning, especially if the person has posture issues, but after a while, the muscles get accustomed to the upright posture and the crutch user will likely experience less pain and discomfort.

Weight and size. Underarm crutches are usually heavier and bulkier, making them difficult to store or put aside when not in use. Some forearm crutches, especially the carbon travel ones, are lighter and foldable, and can be stored in a place as small as a backpack. 

Usability. Underarm crutches are indeed easier to use, and might feel stabler at the beginning. For a lot of people, it seems to be almost intuitive to use underarm crutches, it may look like a grab and go solution. Forearm crutches, however, require some training. The user needs to have/develop core strength to maintain the posture and walk properly. For that reason, it might be challenging for some people when they try to use them for the first time, and that’s one of the main reasons some people quit using them right away. We always recommend getting some gait training with a physiotherapist to get the most out of your forearm crutches.

Energy expenditure. Although using underarm crutches might seem easier, the energy expenditure is greater, according to scientific studies that show that the heart rate of users of underarm crutches is considerably higher than for the ones using forearm crutches. That might be connected to the pressure to the thoracic cage caused by the use of underarm crutches.

Types of gait. Forearm crutches also allow different types of gait, such as, swinging, diplegic, neuropathic and other types of gait. Underarm crutches, due to its bulky and heavy nature, does not allow different types of gait, which might make some people uncomfortable to walk, or even quitting walking altogether.

Newer technology. Lately, many companies are working on getting lighter materials and better components to forearm crutches, to make them more comfortable, stable and dynamic, whereas many of the underarm crutches are still being made by the same way as they were made 50 years ago. 

Ultimately, we consider forearm crutches to be a better option for most of our clients. We understand that some people are too familiar with underarm crutches, after using it for so many years, and this is also an important factor to take into consideration. But it’s is never too late to try something new, and from our experience selling crutches for more than 20 years, we know that people don’t regret switching their old underarm crutches for a new pair of modern forearm crutches. 

Do you have questions about forearm crutches? Contact us and we’ll assist you!

Ready to purchase your new pair of forearm crutches? Visit our store to browse our selection.