How long should I use crutches? Well, that’s a million-dollar question, and that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
Today’s episode actually comes from a question that someone posted in the comments on one of the YouTube videos I put up, where I was actually talking about how sometimes I will recommend people use crutches for a short period of time, not months, not many weeks, but a short period of time to try to accelerate the process of healing certain over-training injuries. And in the comments someone posted and said, “How long would you use crutches for this,” and whatever the condition was. And truthfully, I don’t even remember which condition he was talking about.
Well, the first thing is, is that I wouldn’t use crutches. You would use crutches, not me, because I didn’t get injured. And so really what this patient is asking is, “What would your recommendation be to me?” And I do not provide medical advice to somebody that just says, “How long should I use crutches?” Because I don’t know anything about your injury. And I don’t do fixed timelines for anybody, because I don’t think it makes any sense. That’s the whole point of this entire podcast. You have to realize that, all kidding aside, what I would do is I would say, you have to use the crutches until that tissue that is injured is strong enough to continue healing without using the crutches.
I know you’re going to think that’s a nonsense answer, but it’s absolutely not. You have to be able to check and confirm as you move along, whether or not it is actually improving, and whether or not the tissue is getting stronger, and whether or not you’re moving toward healing or not.
Iff you use crutches until it is okay for you to get off of the crutches and you’ve confirmed somehow that it is actually acceptable for you to get off the crutches, and we think that you’re going to continue to heal, even if you’re walking protected in a fractured walking boot or something, you have to realize that you’re not going to stay on the crutches long enough until it’s time for you to run.
If your doctor takes you off of crutches and then says, “Congratulations, your fracture’s all healed, your tendon’s all better, you’re done with the crutches. You can go run, just let pain be your guide.” That doctor waited way, way, way too long to get you off the crutches, because there’s an interim step at every one of these phases of healing that makes sense. When you get off the crutches, you should be barely just healed enough that you can start walking without crutches. When you get out of the boot, you should be just barely healed enough that you can walk without the boot and without the protection of the fracture walking boot without it getting worse.
So that’s why I think you have to really be thoughtful about this, and you have to analyze it very carefully. You have to keep really clear numbers on your pain. You have to track everything with your activities. And if you do that, you and your doctor can make these decisions better. But that is what I’d do. So I don’t have standard timelines that I will post as an answer in a YouTube comment for somebody I do not know and don’t know anything about their history, because it makes no more sense than your doctor telling you that it’s going to take you a year to heal or 12 weeks to heal, or something else just because that’s what everybody supposedly heals when they walk into their office. It doesn’t make any sense. Be thoughtful about this, think about what it really means in terms of the amount of stress and strain on that tissue, and you can make a whole lot better choices as you progress through the injury.
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