Having a tool to help you get around safely is crucial when you’re dealing with any kind of mobility issues. While it may seem self-explanatory, it’s still important to know how to use a cane or other types of walkers properly.
Why You Might Need a Walker or Cane
There are a lot of reasons you might need a cane or walker. Many people just need a little help with mobility as they age. Issues with balance or coordination are common. Having a cane to increase stability and decrease the risk of falls can help keep you healthy.
Walking canes are also a big help if you’re dealing with knee or hip arthritis. The same goes for those who have degenerative movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or Huntington’s disease.
Some people dealing with temporary mobility issues will also need to learn how to use a cane. Those things include recovering from a lower-body surgery, letting a lower extremity fracture heal, or rehabilitation from a stroke.
Picking the Right Cane
Your first move when you find out you need a cane is to make sure you get one that fits your needs. That’s going to depend on the severity of your condition. If you’re having severe issues with mobility, you should consult your doctor about why type of mobility aid you need.
Choosing a Base
Sometimes a standard single-footed cane will get the job done just fine. Other times you may need a four-footed cane, which has four feet on the bottom and helps further increase stability. The drawback there is it’s a little heavier and wider at the base, which can make it more difficult to maneuver.
Getting the Right Height
Once you’ve decided which type of cane you need, the next step is getting it to the correct height. Having one that’s too low or too high will make you unstable.
Here’s how to set the proper height adjustments on your cane. Stand in your natural position
Hang your arms down with your elbows straight. Your wrist should be at the top of the cane. This is where a collapsible cane comes in handy. You can easily set it to the correct position.
Checking the Cane’s Tip
One last thing to check is the cane’s tip. A rubber tip grips the floor well so you don’t slip when you put your weight on it. Always check to make sure it’s in good condition, and buy a replacement if it’s worn down.
How to Use a Cane
Now that you have the correct equipment, it’s time to learn how to use a cane properly. The first thing to note is you should hold your walking cane in the hand that’s opposite of the leg that’s giving your trouble.
You’ll then follow these steps to get up from a standing position and start walking forward:
- Hold the handle of your cane in one hand and push up from the armrest of your seat. Once up, grip the cane and make sure you’re stable.
- Move the cane forward, making sure it’s a few inches out from your side.
- Step forward with your injured leg, putting your weight on the cane.
- Step forward with your stronger leg.
It’s important to note you should make sure you’re looking forward to see where you’re going. You may find yourself staring at the floor and focusing on your feet and the cane. You need to pick your head up so you can see what’s in front of you.
Going Up Stairs
If you’ve got stairs to navigate, there’s a different technique you need to know.
When you’re going up the stairs, start by pushing down on the cane. You’ll then step up with your stronger leg. After that, step your weak or injured leg up to the step with your strong leg. Finally, bring the cane up.
Going Down Stairs
When you’re going down the stairs, you’re just going to reverse that process.
First, put your cane down one step. Then put your weak or injured leg down on that same step. Finally, you’ll bring down your stronger leg.
Always make sure you hold onto the railing if it’s available.
How to Use a Walker
If you’re dealing with a condition where you need more assistance than a cane provides but you don’t need to be in a wheelchair, a walker is a good middle ground. Here are the steps for getting up and moving:
- Push up on the armrest of the chair or side of the bed to get into a standing position.
- Use both hands to grip the handles of your walker.
- Move the walker a comfortable distance forward.
- Take one step forward with your weaker leg, and then step forward with your stronger leg. It’s important to keep your feet in between the sides of the walker.
If you can’t put any weight on one of your legs, you should use a hop step to move forward.
Just like with canes, make sure you’re keeping your head up so you can see what’s in front of you.
Types of Walkers
There are a few other types of walkers than the standard walker, which is just the four legs with non-slip rubber tips.
You can opt for a two-wheeled walker if you need a little help moving it. The two wheels on the front legs of this type make it to where you only have to lift the back legs to go forward instead of having to lift the entire weight of the walker.
Your other option is what’s called a rollator walker. These have wheels on all of the legs. These are better options if you have trouble lifting any weight.
A rolling walker allows you to move forward more easily. They’re meant to help you keep your balance while walking, not to help take some weight off your legs like a standard walker.
Keep on Moving
Staying mobile is an important part of your overall health. If you can’t walk you’re not going to get enough physical activity throughout the day. Learning how to use a cane or other types of walkers can help you stay up and about a little more than you otherwise would.
Remember to talk to your doctor if you’re having issues with mobility. Your physician can help you find the best option for a mobility aid.
Sometimes you might be ok with just a walking stick. Other cases might need something more heavy duty. It’s best to consult the professionals so you know you’re getting exactly what you need.