Nov. 25, 2019

Mobility devices: Not a one-size-fits-all approach

McCaig Institute member Ranita Manocha studies the impact crutches have on the upper extremities
McCaig Institute member Ranita Manocha studies the impact crutches have on the upper extremities

Anyone who has used crutches knows the stress they can put on your shoulders and arms.

McCaig Institute member and physiatrist, Dr. Ranita Manocha, MD, is studying how using crutches impacts the biomechanics of the upper extremities in hopes of reducing the risk of injury with their use.

In her clinical practice, Manocha often encounters people who aren’t using devices such as canes, walkers, and crutches properly, which can result in a higher risk of injury. She explains: “As a physician for patients with disabilities, I am focused on preventing other injuries that can worsen disability; it’s time to put science behind our practice and explore options and differences between devices.”

In her latest study, which takes place in Dr. Janet Ronsky’s lab in the Centre for Mobility and Joint Health (MoJo), Manocha had able-bodied participants use two different types of crutches to observe the impact on their arms. “We looked at everything from their scapula (shoulder blade) to the wrist in terms of motion and analyzed what happened to how their muscles fire. All of this information can help predict risk of upper extremity injury,” explains Manocha.

The study also noted the impacts of changing the length of the crutches. So far, the data has shown interesting differences between types of crutches and influences of crutch length.

“Understanding what happens to body mechanics if devices aren’t fitted properly is critical to educating people on fitting their devices to reduce risk of injury,” Manocha explains.

Manocha’s long-term vision is to create resources for patients to better understand the proper use of their mobility devices.


Dr. Ranita Manocha, MD, is physiatrist and a clinical assistant professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health.