Weight Bearing Status

By Tim Wall MS/ATC

What Is Weight Bearing Status?

Weight bearing status (WB) is the amount of weight that can safely be placed on a part of the body. WB status usually applies to the legs after and injury or surgery. A physician typically determines weight bearing status.  The status may also include assistive devices like crutches, walker or a cane.

Why is it Limited?

When tissue is healing, it may be necessary to limit the force applied to it. Limiting the force of body weight can allow tissue to heal properly with less stress on compromised tissue.

Walking with a walker for weight bearing status

Weight bearing status with a walker

When Can The Weight Increase After an Injury or Surgery?

Weight bearing status usually increases when healing has reached a point that is safe. Most of the time, weight bearing limitations happen with orthopedic injuries or surgeries. When the orthopedic surgeon observes sufficient bone healing on X-ray, they may slowly increase the weight bearing permitted on the limb.

Weight bearing limitations may be placed on patients after soft tissue injuries or repairs. One example is an Achilles Tendon Repair. Weight bearing after a soft tissue injury or tear may be determined by average healing times and the severity of the injury/quality of the tissue.

Levels of Weight Bearing

Full Weight Bearing (FWB)

The limb is able to support 100% Weight.

Weight Bearing As Tolerated (WBAT)

Weight may be placed on the limb up to 100% if it is tolerated.

Partial Weight Bearing (PWB)

Partial weight bearing ranges between 25 -75% weight bearing on the limb. The percentage is typically specified by the physician.

Toe-Touch Weight Bearing (TTWB)

The limb (foot) can touch the floor but no significant weight can be place through it.

Non-Weight Bearing (NWB)

No weight or force may be applied through the limb.

How Do You Walk if You Are NOT Full-Weight Bearing?

Well, if you are not “Full Weight Bearing,” then you’ll need an assistive device to walk. Assistive walking devices include:

  • Walker
  • Rolling Walker
  • Rollator Walker
  • Crutches
  • Knee Scooter
  • Cane 
  • Quad Cane
image partial weight bearing in a walking boot on the left and using crutches

Partial weight bearing status with crutches and walking boot

Which Walking Device Do You Use?

The type of device you need depends on the weight bearing status.

FWB – No device needed for weight bearing but may use a cane or 1 crutch for balance if balance is an issue.

WBAT – May use walker, rolling walker, or crutches.

PWB – May use walker, rolling walker, or crutches.

TTWB – May use walker, rolling walker, or crutches.

NWB – may use walker, crutches, or knee scooter (if ankle/foot issue).

What is Weight Bearing Status After Knee Replacement?

Most of the time, weight bearing status is Weight Bearing as tolerated (WBAT) after a knee replacement.  Most patients use a walker or rolling walker for about a month and then progress to a cane.

What is Weight Bearing Status After Hip Replacement?

Most of the time, patients are Weight Bearing As Tolerated (WBAT) after a hip replacement. Some orthopedic surgeons prefer Partial Weight Bearing (PWB) for the first several weeks. In addition, PWB status is more common when the underlying bone is soft or weaker. Most patients use a walker for the first month to 6 weeks after a hip replacement.  They typically progress to a cane after the walker.

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