A crutch is a mobility aid that transfers weight from the legs to the upper body. It is often used by people who cannot use their legs to support their weight, for reasons ranging from short-term injuries to lifelong disabilities.
Crutches were used in ancient Egypt. In 1917, Emile Schlick patented the first commercially produced crutch; the design consisted of a walking stick with an upper arm support. Later, A.R. Lofstrand, Jr. developed the first crutches with a height-adjustable feature making the crutches customizable. Through time, the design of crutches haven't changed much such that the classic design still is most commonly used.
Axillary crutches are used by placing the pad against the ribcage beneath the armpit and holding the grip, which is below and parallel to the pad. They are usually used to provide support for patients who have temporary restriction on ambulation. With underarm crutches, sometimes a towel or some kind of soft cover is needed to prevent or reduce armpit injury. A condition known as crutch paralysis, or crutch palsy can arise from pressure on nerves in the armpit, or axilla. Specifically, "the brachial plexus in the axilla is often damaged from the pressure of a crutch...In these cases the radial is the nerve most frequently implicated; the ulnar nerve suffers next in frequency."
An uncommon type of axillary crutches is the spring-loaded crutch. The underarm pad is a curved design that is open in the front with the grips for the hands shaped for maximum comfort and to reduce the prevalence of overuse injuries. These crutches also contain a spring mechanism at the bottom. The idea behind this design is to allow the user to propel themselves further, resulting in quicker movement from place to place, though research has shown that the difference in speed is very small when comparing standard axillary crutches to spring-loaded crutches. These crutches are most commonly used by young or athletic populations.
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