SmartCRUTCH First Impressions – Addendum…

After a couple of days tinkering I’ve arrived at what I feel is the optimum setup. The leg length depends on the height of the user, of course, and so is outside the scope of this review.

The SmartCRUTCH website mentions, as an aside, that some positions of the cuff are less stable than others (guys, you really need to give us full information on this – which positions are most, and least, stable), and in use I found the 90-degree cuff position provided little support.

It did remove all pressure from my hands (so I haven’t entirely given up on it), but a loss of stability, especially when used indoors where space is at a premium and where I spend 99.9% of my time.

After a day spent fiddling with various positions I settled on an approximately 60-degree tilt of the cuff and a reduction of its length by a few millimetres.

This provides both maximum support and stability, is much easier to use indoors, and as the forearm still takes quite a bit of my weight, pressure on my hand is much reduced (and moved to a different point), so overall these provide far more support than my conventional crutches.

I’m still finding them cumbersome, to a slight degree, as the weight distribution – both mine and the crutches’ – is very different. As with most things, there’s a learning curve and I have, after all, had them only a couple of days whereas I’ve been using my conventional crutches for the better part of 30 years.

My next target is to use the crutches to facilitate hopping on one leg, in preparation for my surgery (I need to build up my muscles and work on my balance).

11 thoughts on “SmartCRUTCH First Impressions – Addendum…

  1. How are you getting on with them now Ron. One of the issues I found with the pair I borrowed was the weight and size. Trying to go out in the car with them was very difficult.
    They are cumbersome and not at all easy to have in the front seat with you. I had to put one down the side of the seat between front and back (door side) and have the other one in the front with me, with the height reduced on the pole, until I was ready to get out and use them. Then it was a faff of extending one and attempting to dislodge the other from its jammed position between the seat and the side of the car.
    I also have problems with the cuffs. Due to the swelling in my arms, it seemed no amount of stretching of the cuff helped, and I ended up with bruises and rubbed patches 😦

    • Did those you borrowed have the foam wing pads on the cuff? If so, you’d have more room without them. My arms are so skinny after last year – lost a load of muscle, never got it back – that I had to fit the pads to stop my arms slipping out of the cuffs. Adjusting the cuff length is critical too. If the handle is at it’s shortest setting, adding grip cushions would have the effect of shortening the cuff if you can find any thick enough.

      Positives first: The problems with my right hand are improving – I can now go for days without them cramping immovably. And I’m pretty sure my original theory was right – it’s a circulation problem, not neural. I doubt it’ll ever be back to normal, but less pain is always welcome.

      Downsides: They are heavy (anyone not read the post, there are comparative weights for all my crutches). Even if you’re used to crutches, as I am, the weight distribution is weird – the centre of mass is far too high. It depends on how you position the cuff, the closer to 90-degrees (horizontal), the more cumbersome – I have mine set at about 60-degrees which is optimum for me and distributes the weight almost equally between my hands, forearms and elbows.

      I think the centre of mass could be adjusted – it’s something I’ve done in the past – by investing in a tin of airgun pellets (or coarse fishing weights), and loading the shaft, just above the ferrule, until it feels right. Once it’s to your satisfaction, dribble some PVA adhesive in to stick the pellets or weights together so they don’t rattle (if you want to remove them later, just take off the ferrule and poke them out with a stick). It only takes a few ounces of pellets. Or if you have any nuts and bolts lying around, try those first, or pebbles, anything really, even sand,** just to see if it works for you.

      **Birdcage or potting sand, not from the beach – the salt will rot the alloy.

      I think you’d need to apply heat to the cuffs to get them to stay open more – and hold them until they cooled (assuming they didn’t just snap!). Whether this would change the characteristics of the plastic – make it brittle, maybe – I don’t know. Probably a last resort!

      I’ve not been able to use them outdoors, as I can only stay on my feet for a few minutes at a time now, but I find them cumbersome to walk with indoors, and need more room than normal crutches. However, given the benefits to my hand, I can live with that and I think they’d come into their own outdoors but right now that’s just a guess.

      I don’t drive these days – I had to quit a few years ago – but in the crutch holders on my manual chair they’re heavy enough to upset the chair’s balance, so I’ll have to use my indoor crutches if I get the chance to go out (first outing of the year is to see my surgeon a week today – fingers crossed!).

  2. padding not the issue, its the edges of the cuffs that dig in me. 😦
    I didnt like to mess with them too much as they arnt mine.
    Good ideas though, to bear in mind, if I decide to get my own.
    I do find them very heavy though, compared to my standard elbow crutches. Even my nhs gutter crutches feel to cumbersome.

    • One thing to bear in mind – apart from differences in length, all the cuffs are the same dimension at the wings. You probably know that, but just in case . . .

      A couple of things I forgot to mention – because of the weight distribution they feel heavier than they actually are – the difference between these and my heavy outdoor crutches with anatomical grips is only 5oz each. And they handled much better once I replaced the rather soft blue ferrules with normal grey ones.

  3. Thanks Ron.
    Might give them another try. to be honest what I want is a chair. but no one in the NHS will refer me cos they all just see me as fat and lazy and tell me to keep walking. Yes, im obese, yes I need to lose weight, yes I want to lose weight and stay mobile. Thats all fine and dandy except when the fibro pain and the OA get so bad that my neck and shoulders (and knees) are so sore I cant use my sticks, so I cant walk, so Im stuck in the house. *rolls eyes* but they just keep refusing me.

    Hubby wants to get me a scooter, and due to my weight I need one of the big ones, so a shopper (fold up) isnt an option. The car we have wont take a scooter in the boot, so its a moot point as far as im concerned. I wont go anywhere on my own, I need the scooter for when WE go out together, but as we dont have a vehicle to put one in theres no point getting one. But I worry about getting a wheelchair in case neither I or paul can push me in it.

    • Hi Leigh,

      Sorry about the delay – not been a good day.

      Apart from the car problem with a scooter, it’s the same should you need a taxi, as most companies won’t take them. A powerchair is probably the best solution – not cheap if you have to buy your own. Most won’t go in your car, though.

      I’m overweight too, perversely, as about a year ago I almost starved to death (anorexia, a symptom of then undiagnosed Addison’s Disease – which is also the reason I’m now fat – steroids). I also have stage 3 COPD along with much else, and I use a manual chair if I go out (though I use a powerchair at home).

      Using a manual chair is very much easier than walking. Walking, you have to support your own weight as well as move it; with a chair your weight is fully supported – all you have to do is move it, and that’s easier than you might think. The important thing, though, if being pushed, is to still have a conventional manual chair, not a transit chair, as the bigger wheels roll much more easily. Whether being pushed or self-propelling, rock-hard tyres are a must – they make it much easier.

      There really should be no problem getting a referral to the NHS wheelchair service as it’s up to the NHS whether they accept you or not, not your GP. Have you tried telling your docs that a manual chair will enable you to take more exercise?

      As for being pushed, it depends a great deal on where it’ll be used. On the flat it’s pretty easy, up hill not so much. You can get power units for manual chairs, which aid the pusher, like this one

      Have you tried the Red Cross? They have a wheelchair loan service (or did, last I heard, and don’t need a medical referral as far as I know). Even if it’s only short term, it’s a way to test the water before you buy. Failing that there might be somewhere you could hire one, just for a weekend, to try it out.

      And if you do buy one, do shop around online as prices vary enormously. My manual chair was custom built and cost £1500 – and that’s cheap – a couple of mouse clicks could have doubled the price! Off the shelf folders start around £300, but your weight will dictate whether you need a bariatric chair, which would jack up the price considerably. Budgeting for a decent cushion, though, can improve the quality of even the most basic chair. Shop around there, too, as I’ve had cars that cost less than some cushions!

    • Oops! Just spotted the shoulder pain. A manual chair could exacerbate that. And I stress could – it might not, but it’s best to find out before you put money into it

  4. 2 GPs and Ortho surgeon all refused to refer me, citing my weight as the issue. They all say a chair wont help me lose weight and I should keep walking.
    I cant get it through their thick heads that its not just about the walking. and I cant even do that if my shoulders are in spasm.
    Red cross dont do bariatric wheelchairs. I’ve tried them. They made me feel like a freak when I asked for a bariatric chair. Gave me the number of a company they claimed did rent them out, but that was wrong. The company sells them but doesnt rent them.

    Would like powerchair, but as you say, it comes down to a vehicle to fit it into.

    Will just have to keep plodding along, and begging the next GP I get to see.

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