What are underarm braces?

Armpit supports are walking aids that are intended to provide relief for one or both legs. They differ from regular forearm supports in that the support is not held with the hands and forearms, but is fixed to the armpit over a longer shaft. There is a curved support surface which is positioned under the armpit. In addition, there is a handle in the course of the underarm support towards the foot, which is gripped with the hand for stabilization.

Indications for underarm supports

If a patient cannot or must not fully load the lower extremity after an operation, accident or paralysis, walking aids must be used. Normally, forearm crutches are prescribed for this purpose. However, there are groups of patients who have limited hand, wrist, forearm, elbow and upper arm strength. In this case, crutches can be used which transfer the force directly through the armpit to the shoulder. This topic may also be of interest to you: Apparatus-supported physiotherapy

Difference to forearm crutches

The difference between underarm crutches and forearm crutches is quickly visible. Crutches are significantly shorter. They consist of a pole that can be adjusted in length, a handle and an angled shell for the forearm and elbows.

The patient takes the load off the legs by transferring his weight to the forearm support with his hand instead. Armpit supports are significantly longer. In principle, they also have a height-adjustable support.

At the height of this knee the support is divided into two parallel supports. Between these there is a handle for the hand and a padded support surface for the armpit. Relief of the leg is achieved by transferring force to the armpit and shoulder.

It is important that not the entire weight is placed on the armpit. The basic idea is that the underarm support is clamped between the upper arm and the body. In contrast to the forearm crutches, the hands and forearms, as well as the hand and elbow joints, are therefore less stressed.

While forearm crutches regularly cause pressure points and discomfort in the hand and forearm, these problems are shifted to the armpit and shoulder area in the case of underarm crutches. Faulty padding and use can lead to neurological failures. This is explained by the course of important nerve cords for the upper arm (brachial plexus) in the armpit area. In many countries, underarm supports are rarely used anymore, as they restrict the patient even more and pull him/her out of the regular movement pattern than forearm crutches do.

How do you learn to walk with underarm supports?

Walking with underarm crutches can be quite complex depending on the severity of the complaints, the age and previous experience with walking aids. Ideally, the first use should not be done alone or on your own. After an operation or an accident, instruction by a physiotherapist will be given in hospital.

In case of difficulties, time will be taken to ensure that the patient is safe and competent in the use of the underarm supports. In the outpatient area, help can be requested in the course of physiotherapy or from the treating family doctor. Medical personnel are aware of the relevance of adequate use, due to the knowledge of the risks of incorrect use; therefore, if there is any uncertainty about the correct use, it can be inquired at any time. Of course, correct walking with underarm supports can also be learned or controlled via the Internet, e.g. on video portals.