On buying new crutches…

It’s not just clothes sizing that’s gone to hell, it’s the same with crutches.

I’ve been using crutches for a decade or two, and always the type with ergonomic grips, and it’s the grips that tend to wear out, being of a material that becomes slightly friable with age.

So I’ve ordered a pair of these, in bronze. Oddly, ergonomic crutches at a sensible price are incredibly hard to find these days, and these are the best price I found – £26.03 a pair**, and they come in blue or bronze.

Update, October 25: Avoid like the plague! I ordered bronze – I know damn well I did, I just can’t prove it – but the buggers have sent blue. And the quality is seriously poor. I’m going to have to modify them anyway – see below – but more than I anticipated. The springs on the locating pins are far too strong – if you have arthritic fingers, forget it. The forearm cuffs are clearly designed for someone on the edge of starvation (nothing like the pic), and have way too many sharp edges from the moulding process. The design of the rubber ferules is simply bizarre, and way too soft.

I’d send the buggerdly things back. but I know that there is nothing any better out there – most vendors sell these. They’re fixable and, luckily, I’m able to do it – many people won’t be – but I really bloody well shouldn’t have to!

The only upside is that I now have an excuse to paint the sodding things black!

Considering how much shopping I do online, and how long I’ve been doing it, not much has gone wrong, and this certainly isn’t going to put me off.

**Other websites will charge you more for just one crutch!

My problem is that the section between the grip and the forearm cuff is way too long. I like the cuff set so that it’s supported by the muscle of the forearm, not immediately below the elbow, where it can be painful as it presses against the bone, no problem with my last two pairs. The trouble is, that’s exactly where the shortest adjustment puts it on current crutches (I’ve been looking for over a year, getting the right size is impossible).

So they’ll have to be modified, and to do that I’ve had to buy a workbench, so they can be securely clamped while I cut them down to size. Amazon has one at a whisker under £15, which should get the job done.

The pics are from the respective websites, and I figure as I’m potentially driving traffic their way, it counts as fair use. Only a churl would complain at free advertising!

A pipe-cutter would be the ideal tool, but I don’t have one and I don’t want to push the bill for this any higher (though the workbench is more of an investment, it’ll be useful for working on my scooter), so a junior hacksaw and a little care, and I’ll be fine. A tight cable-tie will give me an accurate cutting guide.

What I have to do is shorten the outer tube above the grip, as well as the inner tube that holds the cuff. Then I have to relocate the locking pin by drilling new holes for it (I’ll do that before I take it apart to start cutting, as the holes in the crutch provide a perfect template, which, by the way, is pronounced “templ’t” not, as TV DIY dorks would have it, “Tem-plate” – see the ODE if you doubt it). All perfectly doable, but really, I simply shouldn’t have to do it at all. At their maximum extension, these crutches would fit the Harlem Globetrotters, which is ludicrous – shorter people use crutches too.

I think, too, that I may need to use both crutches, where I’ve got by with one for quite a long time. On the one hand I’ll have more support, on the other hand, it’ll make getting around even more problematic – two crutches are as much an impediment as help, and I just don’t feel safe with both hands occupied; never have.

What I’d really like is black crutches – hell, you can get walking sticks in black as well as more colours and patterns than any sane person could need, so why do crutches have to be so dull? OK, bronze is at least better than plain aluminium, but black would be so much cooler.

If you like the idea, something aimed at bikers might do to paint crutches, like this gloss black engine paint, which resists chipping. If you fancy a matt finish, it also comes in satin (same page). You’ll also need masking tape and newspaper, to mask the parts you don’t want to paint, and a couple of drop cloths, one for the floor, one to hang vertically on the wall – any DIY store, and cheap. Then all you have to do is find a way to hang up your crutches by the cuff or, with care, lean them against the drop cloth-covered wall. Spray lightly – two light coats are better than one thick coat, but with this stuff, one coat might be fine. Don’t forget to open the windows if you do it indoors and if, like me, you have a respiratory problem too, you might have to do it in several short blasts, dictated by how long you can hold your breath!

The point about the drop cloths and masking tape/newspaper is that you cover all but the parts to be painted, and protect wall and floor, so you don’t need to linger being overly precise about spraying. Even holding your breath 2 or 3 times, it should be a five-minute job for each crutch, plus the time it takes for masking and for drying.

Wash the crutches, a day or two before, with washing-up liquid, rinse well and let them dry before starting. This will ensure any greasy residue from the manufacturing process is removed. Handle them only by the cuff or grip, so you don’t get greasy finger-marks on them, too.

Have fun.

And it should go without saying, but people can be amazing stupid, so don’t bloody smoke while spraying – not unless you like third-degree burns.