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Crutches: 12 Tips for Going Up and Down Stairs


Sunday, March 27th, 2016

There’s a simple saying to help you remember how to go up and down the stairs with your crutches. It’s “up with the good, down with the bad.”

This means that:

An illustration showing how to go up steps when using crutches.

When going up steps on crutches, lead with your stronger leg. Keep the crutches on the step where you’re standing.

  • When you’re going up the stairs, you should lead with your stronger — or “good” — leg.
  • When you’re going down the stairs, you should lead with your weaker — or “bad” — leg. The crutches support your weaker leg.

Tips for Going Up the Stairs on Crutches

  1. Hold onto the handrail with one hand. Hold both crutches under your opposite arm. (If there’s no handrail, keep one crutch under each arm.) Crutches should be in the middle of the step, away from the edge.
  2. Start close to the bottom step.
  3. Keep the crutches on the step where you’re standing. Step up with your stronger leg (see image at right).
  4. Push down on your crutches, and then step up with your weaker leg.
  5. Once both feet are on the same step, bring your crutches up to that step.
  6. Check your balance before you move to the next step. Repeat one through six.
This illustration shows how to walk to down steps on crutches.

When going down steps, place the crutches on the step below and lead with your weaker leg.

Tips for Going Down the Stairs on Crutches

  1. Hold onto the handrail with one hand. Hold both crutches under your opposite arm. (If there’s no handrail, keep one crutch under each arm.) Keep crutches in the middle of the step, away from the edge.
  2. Start near the edge of the step.
  3. Put your crutches down on the next step below.
  4. Step down with your weaker leg.
  5. Step down with your stronger leg.
  6. Check your balance before you move to the next step. Repeat one through six.

Bonus Tips for Climbing Stairs with Crutches

If your doctor tells you not to allow your weaker foot down on the ground at all (non-weight bearing), then:

  • When going up steps, bend your knee and keep your foot behind you.
  • When going down steps, extend your weaker leg in front of you.

Climbing narrow steps without railings

If the steps are narrow and there are no railings:

  • You may have to sit on each step. Move up and down the stairs on your buttocks.
  • You can do this any time you feel unsteady or unsure of yourself when climbing steps with your crutches.

It’s also a good idea to make sure someone is nearby in case you need help.

Tips for Walking with Crutches

  • Carry items in a backpack.
  • Do not hang or lean on your crutches. Support all your weight on your hands, not under your arms.
  • Maintain good posture when walking.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and support your feet.
  • Be careful when walking on uneven or wet surfaces.
  • Walk at a safe, comfortable pace.

You’ll get more comfortable climbing stairs and walking as you continue to use your crutches.

Once you feel comfortable, you can step with your weaker leg and the crutch at the same time.

Your physical therapist may show you different ways to move safely, depending on your situation or environment.

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Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) provides physician services at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and numerous outpatient clinics throughout western Pennsylvania. The Department’s mission is to maximize the health, function, and well-being of the people they serve by providing the highest quality rehabilitative medical care, conducting highly relevant, cutting-edge research, and training the next generation of clinicians and researchers. Read More