Knee walker helps patients who can’t handle crutches
By Lara Krupicka For The Sun January 8, 2013 3:34PM
When Oswego resident, Mary Smith, underwent surgery on her foot two years ago to correct problems stemming from a previous bunion operation, she attempted using crutches. But when those proved to be too hard to maneuver, the now 56-year-old went online to research other options. There she discovered the knee walker, also known as a knee scooter. | Submitted
Where to find a knee walker
Ask your physician for recommendations
Find local rentals through pharmacies such as Oswald’s in Naperville
Online companies such as Knee Walker Central (www.kneewalkercentral.com)
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:50PM
Oswego resident Mary Smith tried to use crutches after undergoing surgery on her foot two years ago to correct problems stemming from a previous bunion operation. But when those proved to be too hard to maneuver, the now 56-year-old went online to research other options. There she discovered the knee walker, also known as a knee scooter.
“It’s an awesome invention,” she says. She’s not the only one to think so.
Dr. Stephen Arndt, a foot, ankle and knee specialist, and orthopedic surgeon with DuPage Medical Group, suggests the devices have become more popular in recent years because of design improvements.
“They’ve made the knee scooters better now,” he said. “They’re lighter with full-turning radiuses. They’re a little bit easier to get around. And they’ve come down in cost.”
A knee walker is an adjustable-height, padded leg rest on wheels, with a handlebar. The patient props his non-weight-bearing leg on the leg rest in a kneeling position and uses his good leg to push himself around.
Many patients find the device allows them greater mobility overall and perhaps sooner than if they used crutches.
“It gave me the ability to go to the mall or grocery store,” Smith says. “I wouldn’t have the stamina to do that with crutches.”
With the lightweight, fold-up design of her knee walker, Smith could put it in the back seat of her car and hop to the driver’s seat. This allowed her to get around, even driving herself to work during the eight-week recovery from her surgery when she couldn’t put weight on her foot.
Jen Berg, of Naperville, also used a knee scooter after a foot injury and subsequent surgery.
“It was a godsend,” she says. “I could wash my hair, standing at the sink. It let me get back in the kitchen a little. It gets you back to a normal routine.”
Dr. Arndt recommends knee scooters for his patients any time they’ll be non-weight-bearing for longer than two weeks and he suspects crutches might be too hard to handle. He also likes the knee scooter for some patients because it takes less energy and effort. It saves on arm fatigue.
But he cautions patients to make certain they know how to use their knee scooter and to be careful how they use it.
“People have fallen taking turns too fast,” Arndt explains.
Which is perhaps why the scooters often come equipped with brakes (also used to park the scooter so it doesn’t accidentally roll when the patient is standing still). And some have a basket or storage pouch.
But not all knee walkers can turn. Smith purchased a model with a fixed handle because of the extra cost for steering. But she urges anyone renting a knee walker to choose the steering option.
Berg also recommends price shopping for rentals because rates vary greatly. She found the delivery and pickup of her rental through Oswald’s Pharmacy painless.
The biggest factor Arndt encourages patients to consider before getting a knee scooter is the condition of the rest of their body.
“How is the other limb? Can you safely stop and go? Do you have a significant knee problem (in the kneeling leg)? Or if you don’t have speedy reaction time,” he explains.
Obviously safety is a concern — so the patient doesn’t re-injure the foot or ankle that is healing, or incur another injury.
Still, the knee walker has its fans. “It’s a lifesaver,” Berg says.
Smith agrees. And she’s about to find out again how handy her knee walker is. She is returning to the operating room for a third surgery on her foot this spring. But she hopes, as the saying goes, “the third time’s the charm.”