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J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2014 Apr 15;11:61. doi: 10.1186/1743-0003-11-61.

Forearm pressure distribution during ambulation with elbow crutches: a cross-sectional study.

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Osteoarthritis Research Center, University Hospital Basel, Spitalstrasse 21, 4031 Basel, Switzerland.



Increasing numbers of patients require permanent walking aids to maintain mobility. Current elbow crutches are not designed for long-term use, and overuse is often associated with hematoma formation and pain along the forearm. We therefore hypothesized that the highest pressures between the forearm and crutch cuff during walking and stance are located in the ulnar region and that the level of weight-bearing, forearm circumference and kinematic parameters influence peak pressure values and pressure distribution.


Ten healthy adults participated in a cross-sectional study. A pressure sensor array was attached to the forearm of each participant separating the forearm into four quadrants (lateral, ulnar, intermediate and medial). Measurements were taken during crutch gait and during partial and full weight-bearing stance. A three-dimensional motion analysis system with reflective markers attached to the subject's body and to the crutches was used to obtain kinematic data.


The mean pressure on the forearm during crutch gait was 37.5 kPa (SD 8.8 kPa). Highest mean pressure values were measured in the ulnar (41.0 kPa, SD 9.6 kPa) and intermediate (38.0 kPa, SD 9.0 kPa) quadrants. The center of pressure was mainly located in an oblique lamellar area in these two quadrants. With increasing weight-bearing on the crutches during stance, we observed a shift of the peak pressures towards the ulnar quadrant. The circumference of the forearm correlated with the peak pressure in the medial and intermediate quadrants during crutch gait (P < 0.05). Peak pressures on the forearm showed a trend towards correlation with crutch abduction, but no association with other kinematic parameters was detected.


The pressure load on the forearm during crutch-assisted gait is located predominantly over the ulna and may be linked to a range of secondary conditions caused by crutch use including hematoma formation and pain.

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