Wheelchair vs. Crutches: Here’s the Right Choice after Surgery

wheelchair vs crutches

Oftentimes, mobility devices are needed after undergoing major surgery, especially surgeries that have to do with the bones or joints.

Whether you’ve just had surgery after suffering from a broken foot, knee injury, broken ankle, or broken knee, this guide will help you to pick the right mobility device between a wheelchair and crutches.

Here, we’ll help you to make an informed decision about the best mobility device that will enable you to keep your weight off the injured limb to aid in quick recovery.

Table of Contents


Since their invention in 1783, wheelchairs have been used for mobility by people with disabilities and those who just came out of surgery.

They offer stability and comfort by allowing patients to sit comfortably on the chair without the need of being transferred to a seated position from one place to another.


Wheelchairs are also used by patients who require a mobility device for long-term usage, instead of those who only need them for a couple of weeks or months.

In addition, they serve as the ideal mobility device for people who have poor upper body strength and balancing issues, particularly those who cannot bear the weight on their injured leg.

Wheelchairs come in different sizes, colors, and designs. They can be self-propelled by the user and can equally be propelled by a caregiver or assistant.

Related: Forearm Crutches vs Cane: Here’s the Right One for you


This is by far one of the oldest mobility devices that have been existing for thousands of years, which dates back to the ancient Egyptian era.

Even though crutches have undergone different modifications over the years to create better comfortability, their functions pretty much remain the same.


Modern crutches are the most basic type of mobility aid. They are small and lightweight. They are often used by people who require a mobility device for short-term usage, especially those who are just recovering from bone surgery.

They are equally used to take the pressure off your injured leg while utilizing your upper body strength to keep you fit and aid in quick recovery.

Differences between Wheelchairs and Crutches


Crutches are cheaper alternatives to wheelchairs. They are quite affordable, unlike wheelchairs that can be very expensive and could come in different customizable designs ranging from manual to automatic.

Related: Knee Scooter vs. Crutches: Here’s the Right One for You

Upper body movement

Wheelchairs require little or no upper body movement during usage. This is a different case with the crutches that require upper body strength when in use. This could, eventually, cause you pain in your arms, shoulders, armpits, and hands, especially if the crutches are not well-padded.

The upper body movement is so important while using crutches that without it, you are at a greater risk of falling while walking. This might worsen your injury.


Since crutches are super lightweight and portable, they can pass through narrow or small spaces without stress. You can also climb up and down the stairs with them, and even get into the vehicle effortlessly.

This is unlike wheelchairs that require the help of an assistant to help you get into the vehicle or pass through small spaces. In addition, the tires of wheelchairs are not built to climb up and down the stairs. This, therefore, creates a mobility restriction for wheelchair users.


The stability of crutches is often dependent on the user; this makes it difficult for users to carry things with the crutches. And if the crutches are not used properly, you might end up falling, particularly while walking on slippery surfaces.

The wheelchairs, on the other hand, are sturdy and designed with tires that are anti-slip. They equally have different features and designs that can enable you to store bags and other valuables.


Wheelchairs give you better comfort than crutches because they require little to no physical effort during usage. They are more versatile to use and can be used as a seat to read, eat, and work on your computer, without the need of moving from one chair to the other.

This is unlike the crutches that typically require you to move from one chair to another when you have to sit.

Exercising the injured leg

The most significant difference between using crutches and a wheelchair is that crutches give you the opportunity to build your arm strength and exercise your uninjured leg. This will enable you to heal faster with the other leg.

It is a different case with the wheelchair, which does not let the uninjured leg exercise or do any work. The result of this will eventually weaken your legs and will require you to do more exercise when you heal and begin to walk again.

Related: Adaptive Stroller vs. Wheelchair: Here’s the Right Choice

Similarities between Wheelchairs and Crutches

wheelchair vs crutches

Assistant devices

Wheelchairs and crutches can both be used with other mobility aids to help patients heal faster.

For instance, a patient might decide to use walking boots with crutches or a wheelchair with crutches, depending on their needs and the severity of the injury.


They come in different varieties that can help to ease the mobility of patients.

Mobility Duration

They can both be used for short-term and long-term mobility, depending on the severity of the injury.

However, the pain that comes with using crutches long-term can be excruciating if they aren’t used properly or padded effectively to prevent pain in the armpits, arms, hands, and shoulders.

Final Verdict: Which is the Right Choice between Wheelchairs and Crutches?

Crutches and wheelchairs are two distinct mobility devices that serve various purposes. Contemplating the right one to pick after undergoing surgery can be quite challenging.

You must bear in mind that the use of any of the two mobility devices often depends on the severity of your injury and how well you can walk after the surgery.

If you’re suffering from a knee injury or broken knee, the best mobility device to use after surgery is the wheelchair. This will give you more comfort and enable your knee to heal faster without you having to overwork it.

However, in case of a broken ankle or foot, crutches are preferable and can be used alongside other mobility devices like walking boots to aid quick recovery.

Wheelchair vs. Crutches: Here’s the Right Choice after Surgery


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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