Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Could I injure my arms using crutches?"
Is there a way for me to sprain my arms by using crutches too often. I've read that it's dangerous for the nerves in your arms.
You are definitely correct to assume that sometimes using crutches can be associated with danger to the nerves in the arms. Basically what can happen is that the hard upper part of the crutch (where you lean your weight) can compress a large bundle of nerves emerging from the armpit and running toward the arm, called the brachial plexus. Compression of the brachial plexus can lead to weakness of certain muscles in the arms as well as sensations of numbness or tingling. Fortunately, the damage done to the brachial plexus is only rarely very serious, and patients with this problem (called "crutch paralysis") generally improve if they discontinue using the crutches. The main way to prevent crutch paralysis is to make sure that your crutches are properly sized for your body. The most common setup is having crutches that are too long (and therefore press into the armpits too much). If you will be using crutches, make sure that they have been properly adjusted to your body by your doctor or a physical therapist. Furthermore, if you notice any signs of weakness or numbness in your arms, you should call your doctor immediately to be evaluated for any signs of crutch paralysis.