Tips for Using a Knee Walker as an Alternative for Crutches

scott grant ATP

Certified Assistive Technology Professional
Medical Equipment Guru
Mobility Specialist
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When dealing with foot pain or recovering from a medical procedure involving the feet, many patients are forced to use crutches to get around. And while crutches have their benefits, they can be a literal pain to use! Some patients and their family members have found that using a type of walker called a knee walker (also called a knee scooter) is a better alternative for crutches. And while they do take some getting used to, they can help patients get around easier. So, here are my tips for using a knee walker.

Knee walkers are basically a rolling, padded stepstool that allows the patient to rest their knee while walking. Most knee walkers have handlebars or another way to steer. Most even come with brakes. Some also have baskets in which to carry items for the user. Knee walkers usually have either three or four wheels to provide a stable base on which the patient can lean on while driving. You can read more details about knee walkers in this article.

1. Know How to Properly Use the Knee Walker

Knee walkers operate much like a toy scooter. They “glide” after the patient uses their non-injured foot to push on the ground to gain momentum and move either forward or backward. These helpful walking aids are superior to traditional crutches because they allow a greater freedom of movement and are easier to balance than crutches. Crutches are also burdensome, heavy, and are prone to slipping at the worst times. Knee walkers avoid these pitfalls.

Balancing on the knee scooter is the most important part of using the device. It’s best to balance your weight over the center of the knee walker. Another one of the important tips for using a knee walker is to always keep your knee on the device. It might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget to keep your knee on the walker as you’re moving around.

Here is a great video showing how to use and adjust a knee walker or knee scooter:

2. Know the Limitations of a Knee Walker

An important tip for using a knee walker is realizing that the device is not meant for high-speed travel. Knee walkers are medical devices. They are meant to replace traditional crutches – not to allow the patient to cruise down the street. While not all patients will be tempted to try and hold races, young patients that are recovering from ankle injuries will often be tempted to treat knee walkers as a way to race their friends.

3. Use it at Home First

Most doctors recommend that patients keep their foot or ankle elevated after an injury. It is almost impossible to accomplish this while using crutches. A knee walker will allow patients to get around the house while still keeping the foot and ankle immobilized. It will also prevent patients from bumping or re-injuring their foot while still be able to move around.

The other great part of using a knee scooter is that you can easily wear yourself out moving from room to room using crutches, making tasks almost impossible to accomplish around the house. With a knee walker, you can save energy that would otherwise be expended getting from room to room on recovery.

Once you’re feeling good enough to move around, a great piece of advice for using a knee walker is to start with short trips once you decide to go outside the house. Take it to a friend’s house or to the corner drug store to figure out how to use the knee walker outside the comfort of your home before attempting to use it to go to the supermarket or to the mall.

4. Use the Knee Walker to Stay Active

Some patients might be tempted to just use a wheelchair instead of trying to use crutches or a knee walker. However, wheelchairs are bulky and hard to use, and most of the time require another person to wheel the patient around, and who wants to be a burden to others while recovering?

Wheelchairs also discourage patients from getting up and moving around. Knee walkers still allow patients to move around easily, taking pressure off of the injured foot or ankle, but don’t require the patient to simply sit around all day.

knee walker with handlebars
5. Don’t Use the Knee Walker for Balance When Sitting

Getting up and sitting down will still take some getting used to with a knee walker. But, NEVER use the knee walker to get into sitting positions. NEVER use the walker to pull yourself upright or for balance while sitting. Knee scooters are top heavy and it may tumble over and pull you over in the process. Use the arms of the chair instead.

6. Adjust Your Knee Walker To Fit

One of the biggest complaints people have with knee walkers is that they often get pain in their “good” leg from bumping into the walker or their back starts to hurt after using it because they are hunched over and find it difficult to use. Please don’t just accept these as part of using your knee walker!

Most issues with pain from operating your knee walker are a result of not adjusting the knee walker properly. Almost all medical supply stores have staff that will be willing to assist you in adjusting your knee walker. If you order your knee walker online or from a non-specialized store, you can always speak with your doctor or physical therapist to assist you. Most doctor’s offices and physical therapists would be happy to help you get the most out of your knee walker in order to speed up recovery.

7. Keep It in Peak Working Order

Also, be sure to check and maintain the nuts and bolts of the walker. It only takes a few minutes a few times a week to check to make sure that the bolts are still in place, and it will save you a much bigger headache down the road.

Wrapping Up

Knee walkers are a great alternative to traditional crutches or using a manual wheelchair. If you’re recovering from an ankle or foot injury, or care for someone who is or will be recovering from surgery or other medical procedures, a knee walker may be right for you. Talk to your doctor to see if a knee walker is a good fit for you or a loved one. And, please use these tips to make your recovery a more enjoyable experience! Learn even more about the advantages and disadvantages knee walkers in this article too.

Have you ever used a knee scooter or knee walker before? Do you have any tips or advice you would like to share? Please leave them in the comments below. And, if this article was helpful, please share on your favorite social media!

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