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artificial supports, made of wood or metal, used by those who need aid in walking because of injury, disease, or birth defect.
Types. Crutches are made in different sizes suitable for persons of various heights. Most are made of wood or tubular aluminum. The standard type is the tall crutch that fits under the armpit with double uprights and a small horizontal hand bar between them. The lower part may be adjustable to allow for extensions. There always should be a rubber tip at the base, preferably a suction tip, to prevent slipping.

Gaining in popularity is the Lofstrand crutch, which consists of a single tube of aluminum surmounted by a metal cuff that fits around the forearm. The user supports his weight on a handbar. He can release his hold on the handbar, as in grasping a handrail to climb stairs, without dropping the crutch. A variation of the Lofstrand crutch is the Canadian elbow extensor crutch, which goes farther up the arm.

In walking with crutches, the means of locomotion is transferred from the legs to the arms. The muscles of the arms, shoulders, back, and chest work together to manipulate the crutches. The kind of crutches used depends largely on the nature of the disability. In some cases, the legs may be partially able to function and bear some of the body's weight, so that there is less dependence on the crutches. In other cases, leg braces may be needed to supplement the crutches.
Gaits. The user is taught one of several standard methods or gaits, depending on the underlying condition. Eventually he or she should be able to master at least two gaits: a fast one for making speed in the open, and a slow one for crowded places, where the primary need is to maintain balance. A variety of gaits also helps to relieve fatigue because one set of muscles can rest while another works.

In describing a gait each foot and crutch is called a point, so that a two-point gait, for example, means that two points of the total of four are in contact with the ground during the performance of one step. A three-point gait may be used when one leg is stronger than the other, meaning that two crutches and the weaker leg hit the ground simultaneously while the next step is made by the stronger leg alone. There is also the so-called tripod gait, swinging gait, and variations of them.
Types of crutches.
 Crutch-walking gaits. Note that all gaits begin from the tripod position.
( and see also gait analysis.)
References in periodicals archive ?
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Wagstaffe's office observed Martin schlepping to the doctor's office with crutches, only to exit without them.
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1-4) Crutches are an example of an assistive device commonly used on a short-term basis to overcome temporary mobility problems.
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