If you have trouble keeping your balance or walking with a smooth gait, a walking cane can help you get around easier. Sometimes walking canes are prescribed by doctors or recommended by healthcare practitioners, and sometimes patients decide to start using a walking cane on their own. Here are some tips for choosing the right walking cane for you.
If the walking cane is only for helping you keep your balance, a standard wooden or aluminum cane is the best choice. These walking canes are lightweight and provide an extra point of contact with the ground, which gives you a larger base of support for keeping your balance.
If you need a walking cane to bear weight—either for an injury, recovery from surgery, or to ease arthritic hip or knee pain—then an offset cane will provide the stability you need. The offset handle allows you to lean more weight onto the cane’s shaft. For significant weight bearing, look for a quad cane. An offset quad cane provides four extra points of contact with the ground and can hold more weight than a single-point cane.
Most aluminum canes are adjustable. Wooden canes are not. Before you purchase a walking cane, ask someone to measure the distance from the crease of your wrist to the ground, with your arm hanging down by your side. Make sure the walking cane you buy is adjustable to this height.
Using a walking cane improperly can disrupt your walking gait. The cane should support your natural gait, not throw you off balance. Bring the cane forward with your weak or injured leg. Move the two forward together as if they were a unit.
Use the cane for support if you need it, but don’t hold the cane grip backwards or lean your weight excessively into the cane. If you need more support than a cane can provide, consider using a walker or rollator.
When you need to use a cane, knowing the difference between using it correctly and incorrectly can help you to avoid health problems down the road. It takes some time to get used to using a walking cane, but practice makes perfect when learning how to use a cane.
Fear of falling is one of the greatest fears for the elderly. Getting out of bed can potentially lead to a fall, but with the right movement and support, there’s no need to fear.
The tips below guide you through the process of getting out of bed and standing up with a cane or walker. If you have had surgery recently or if one side of your body is weaker than the other, you may need to consult your health professional for instructions on getting out of bed.
1. First, make sure your walker or cane is next to the bed, with the walker open and ready to use. If you are using a rollator, make sure the wheels are locked to keep it from rolling away.
2. Slide your body over to the edge of the bed. Use your arms and legs to push yourself closer to the edge.
3. Roll onto your side and swing your legs over the edge of the bed.
4. If your leg or hips are injured or weak, don’t roll onto your side. Just move your legs over the edge of the mattress as you slowly sit up, using your arms for support.
5. Sit on the edge of the bed for at least 30 seconds to regain your balance. Don’t rush yourself, and don’t attempt to stand up if you feel dizzy.
7. Slowly push yourself up until you are standing. If one side of your body is weak or injured, put most of your weight on the stronger side of your body. NOTE: Do not pull on the walker or use it to support your full weight. If the walker tips over, you could easily fall.
8. If using a walker, move your other hand to the walker.
9. Stand still for another 30 seconds to let your body regain balance. When you no longer feel dizzy, you can start walking.
Walking with a cane can give you back your independence and mobility. Here are some safety tips on walking with a cane.
Footwear matters. Rubber soles are best, since they have plenty of grip. Leather soles can be slippery, especially when wet. The shoes you wear should fit well and be tied securely (if they have shoelaces).
Keep the floor clear of debris and tripping hazards. Get rid of throw rugs, nail or tape down carpet edges, and glue down loose linoleum. Furniture should be arranged so that there is a clear path through and between rooms.
Clean up spills in the kitchen and bathroom right away. Be especially careful in the bathroom, where moisture and humidity can make the floor slippery even when it is not wet.
Make sure you are well balanced before you start to walk with your cane. After standing up from a sitting or lying position, give yourself a few minutes to adjust before walking. Don’t start walking if you feel dizzy.
Keep your eyes straight ahead as you walk with a cane. Don’t look down at your feet. You might trip or run into something if you are looking down at your feet.
If you have a weak leg or unsteady balance, using a walking cane can help restore your confidence and keep you mobile. A single-point or quad cane allows you to live more independently and lowers the chances of re-injury.
For proper posture and support, the cane needs to be a certain height. The top of the walking cane should reach the crease of your wrist when you are standing up straight. Your elbow should be slightly bent (about 30 degrees) when you hold the cane. You should be able to use the cane to support your weight without being forced to stoop.
Hold the cane in the hand opposite your weak or injured leg. When you step forward with your weak leg, use the cane to support some of your weight. The cane and weak leg should strike the ground at the same time.
With the cane in your hand or leaning against the chair, grab the armrests and lower yourself slowly into the chair. Slide back until you are comfortably seated. To stand, scoot forward to the edge of the chair, grab both armrests with the cane in your strong hand, and push yourself up, letting most of your weight fall on your strong leg.
With the cane in the hand opposite your weak leg, grab the handrail with your free hand. Step up with your good leg first, followed by the weak leg and cane. To come back down the stairs, place the cane on the first step down, followed by your weak leg and finally your good leg. Most of your weight should be on your good leg. Do not use a quad cane on the stairs.
The basic rule for navigating stairs with a single-point cane is “up with the good; down with the bad.” Your strong leg should lead, and your weak leg should follow.
If there are hand rails, grab on to the hand rail with one hand and hold on to the cane with the hand on your strong side (opposite the injured or weak leg). If there is a hand rail on only one side of the stairs, grab the hand rail and hold the cane in the opposite hand.
The same rules apply to stepping up or down a curb. Whenever possible, have an able-bodied person nearby when you navigate stairs or curbs with a cane. They can provide support as needed to prevent a fall or accident.
Seniors commonly fall while doing everyday activities like walking to the bathroom or stepping up on a landing. Throw rugs, raised thresholds, and objects on the floor are just a few of the tripping hazards that seniors face. Thanks to mobility devices like rollators and canes, however, seniors can take back their independence and reduce the chances of a fall.
Canes and rollators provide walking support at home, at the mall, around the neighborhood, and almost anywhere your loved one needs to go. Single-point walking canes are best for users who need a slight balance check every once in awhile. For users who need more support, a quad cane is the next step up. With four points of contact with the ground, quad canes are more stable. A small base quad cane is small enough to use on stairs. A large base quad cane is too large for the average flight of stairs but provides more support for users who need it, especially for heavier users.
If a quad cane no longer provides enough support, consider a wrap-around frame. Walkers and rollators wrap around the body to provide support in front and on both sides. To move a walker, the user either slides the walker forward, lifts it and moves it forward, or lifts the back of the walker and rolls it forward on the two front wheels. Rollators are easier to move, but the user must be able to operate the hand brakes for control.
Deciding which type of mobility aid is right for your loved one is a choice that your doctor, health care provider, or physical therapist can help you make. Each individual’s needs and level of mobility is different, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations on mobility equipment from your medical support team.
Besides helping you keep your balance as you walk, a cane can provide support for sitting down in a chair and getting back up again. Here is how to safely use your cane to help you sit or stand.
If you need more support than a single-tip cane can provide, a quad cane may be the answer. A quad cane improves stability and balance because of the wider base and the use of three or four points of contact with the floor rather than just one.
Small base and large base quad canes are available. The small base is narrow and can be used for going up or down stairs. The large base is wider and provides more support, but the base is too large to be used on stairs.
When walking with a quad cane, it’s important to make sure that the flat side faces the user. If you look closer at a quad cane, you’ll notice that the shaft is off center where it connects to the base. The two legs on the opposite side of the shaft stick out further than the legs on the same side as the shaft. The flat side of the base (where the shaft is closer to the edge of the base) should face towards the user. This prevents the user from tripping over the legs of the cane.
To use the small base quad cane on stairs, turn the base sideways so that all four tips rest firmly on the step. Do not use a quad cane to navigate stairs unless there is enough room on the step for all four legs.
Most quad canes can be modified for right or left handed use. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, rotate the base 180 degrees so that the flat side faces the user.
Adjustable walking canes make it easy to find the right height for a cane without knowing the user’s cane size ahead of time. The height range of an adjustable cane is adequate for most users, except for those who are much taller or shorter than average.
To adjust the walking cane, have the user stand up straight with arms relaxed at his sides. The top of the cane should reach the user’s wrist. When the user’s hand is resting on top of the cane, his elbow should be bent at about a 30 degree angle.
To adjust the walking cane to a different height, push in the release button and slide the cane up or down to the desired height. Make sure the release button pops all the way out of the new adjustment hole.
A quad cane is for individuals who need more support than a single-point cane. The larger the base, the more support that the quad cane will provide. A single-point cane is lighter, smaller, and easier to use.
The wrist strap slips over your arm to free both hands when you are not using the cane. Simply slip it over your wrist and slide the strap up your arm. The strap should never be used while you are using the cane to walk.
The rubber tip provides traction to keep the cane from slipping during use. In time, the rubber tip may wear out and need to be replaced.