They’ve been used by everyone from President Clinton to Tiny Tim, because everyone needs a leg up now and then. Crutches are an absolute necessity for recovery from broken bones, fractures, splits, muscle tears, compound injuries, turned ankles, and sprains. They may be used for a week and cast off; the patient may need to employ their use for a year, or for life. With all of these varied requirements for sufferers who need a crutch to help, it’s no wonder there’s such a wide variety and diversity to this most useful recuperative tool.
How Much Are Crutches? That’s a bit like asking, “How much is a car?” There are so many prices as to boggle the mind; however, basic “cheap” crutches, with no modifications or customizing, made of reinforced steel, with an adjustable underarm, in the largest size, Adult Extra Tall, has an average price of $40, a surprisingly affordable amount for most. It is obviously not affordable for the homeless, or the elderly on a fixed income, but Medicare plans usually kick in all or at least part of the crutches cost, so the patient is not usually out of pocket for much cash.
If your doctor has prescribed crutches (and you should absolutely consult with your doctor first, because no remuneration will come from any medical plan without his prescription), you should be covered for not only the average $40 cost of regular crutches, but also for any special modifications or custom ordered pieces, if the doctor indicates those are needed. Medical Part B coverage (which requires documentation to prove the viability and prescribed need) will usually cover you for this additional crutches cost. A Medicare Advantage Plan or Medigap Policy is the best plan for this kind of coverage.
The cost of crutches varies greatly as crutches are designed in different types or modifications, the first of which is the age of the patient, and the second of which is the position of the crutch’s support (underarm or forearm).
Adult underarm adjustable is one type; youth underarm and child underarm adjustable are the same model, the same make and materials, and shaped exactly the same except, naturally, for their large to small sizes. All of them are within the $40 crutches price range, if underarm is the crutch’s support specification.
The second type, based on the arm position, adds a larger support and a commensurately larger price. The forearm crutch is the one that has a solid metal band attached to its shaft. The forearm slides into this shaft; the arm then clutches at a solid handle attached to the shaft below the forearm ring. There are adjustable forearm pieces, some of which are padded, to allow easy access for smaller or frailer patients. Forearm crutches cost approximately $90, $95 for tall adult, $100 for barium steel models.
Pediatric crutches are especially designed for patients with fragile bone structure, particularly very young children and the elderly. The pediatric design, based on ergonomic principles, features a heavily padded, far more comfortable underarm padding and hand rest in its underarm models. The average crutches cost for this type is $50.
Portable crutches, with a “receding” leg shaft that will telescope into the arm rest, or the less pliable model that is a lightweight “Euro” style (its forearm band is replaced by a smaller balancing flange) are available for the traveler who is in need of crutches that must fit in overhead compartments on planes or under the seats on trains and buses. Not recommended for long-term use (as this tends to weaken its joints and can lead to un-coupling accidents), these models are priced between $50 and $90.
Finally, for the traditionalist who prefers the solidity of wood, there are wooden crutches in comparable sizes priced between $40 and $50.
If you want inexpensive or no-cost crutches, the best place to purchase them is at an establishment that accepts Medicare payments. Most hospitals have supply stores that will gladly accept, with your doctor’s prescription, any order for any style crutch that is recommended, offsetting the cost of crutches.
If you choose to buy your own, without assistance from Medicare, they are found in most pharmacies, some hardware suppliers and all related medical facilities that have retail shops. And of course, the handiest method with which to shop for these is an online website store, which offers usually a far more complete selection in its warehouse than may be available on the floor of a pharmacy or medical facility. Most websites accept Medicare payments and documentation as well (in fact, there are usually “help lines” that assist the patient specifically with this purchase). If you have any kind of Medicare plan, it usually will have a series of steps you must go through to complete you payment covering the crutches cost—the online assistants can help you with that process as well.
Most medical facilities and some pharmacies have rental programs where you may rent crutches (particularly useful for the fixed-income individual who needs them only for a prescribed shorter term). This obviously is money-saving to the individual patient, as such stores rent based on Medicare qualifications, meaning that the selection and sale process may be a bit lengthier, but the customer will pay little or nothing out of pocket.
Even if you do have to pay a nominal fee, it is better to make the purchase or rental from a Medicare-approved facility, as they are mandated to charge no more than the minimum allowed by Plan B.
One might think this a foolish question, but your physician is the best one to consult for training in using crutches. He will be able to advise you on the basic stance, balance and methods of adjustment to make your (hopefully short) use of these “leg replacements” an enjoyable and secure time. As we said before, everyone at some time needs a leg up, even a reinforced steel one.