Using a Cane

Using a Cane

Topic Overview

A walking aid—a walker, crutches, or a cane—helps
substitute for a decrease in strength, range of motion, joint stability,
coordination, or endurance. It can also reduce the stress on a painful joint
or limb. Using a walking aid can help you be more safe and independent in your
daily activities.

Almost everyone has used a walking aid at some
time, even if it was just playing around with crutches that belonged to someone
else. As a result, most people think they know how to use this equipment. But
there are some simple principles that will make using your walking aid easier
and safer.

General safety when using walking aids

  • Look straight ahead, not down at your
    feet.
  • Clear away small rugs, cords, or anything else that could
    cause you to trip, slip, or fall.
  • Be very careful around pets and
    small children. They can be unpredictable and get in your path when you least
    expect it.
  • Be sure the rubber tips on your walking aid are clean
    and in good condition to help prevent slipping. You can buy replacement tips
    from medical supply stores and drugstores. Ice tips are also available to use
    outdoors in winter weather.
  • Avoid slick conditions, such as wet
    floors and snowy or icy driveways. In bad weather, be especially careful on
    curbs and steps.
  • Never use just your walking aid to help you stand up or
    sit down. Even if you still have one hand on your walking aid, put the other
    hand on the surface you are sitting on or the arm of your chair. Use that hand
    to guide you as you sit down, and to push with as you stand up. If you are less
    steady on your feet, rest your walking aid securely nearby, so it doesn't fall
    and you can reach it easily. And use both hands on the sitting surface to help
    you sit down or stand up.
  • Always use your strong or uninjured leg
    to take the first step when you go up stairs or a curb (see instructions for
    curbs and stairs below). When you go back down, step with your weak or injured
    leg first. Remember "up with the good, and down with the bad" to help you lead
    with the correct leg. Ask for help if you feel unsure about going up and, especially, down stairs.

Using a cane

If you are using a cane because one
leg is weak or painful, hold the cane on the opposite side from the weak or
painful leg. For example, if your right hip is sore, hold the cane in your left
hand.

If you are using the cane for a little help with balance and
stability, hold it in the hand you use less. If you are right-handed, you'll
probably want to hold the cane in your left hand to leave your right hand free
for other things.

Hold the cane close to your body so you can push
straight down on it. If you feel as though you need to put a lot of weight on
the cane because your balance is not good or you have significant pain or
weakness, talk to your doctor about trying crutches or a walker.

Be sure your cane fits you. When you stand up in your normal posture with
the cane tip on the ground, the handle of the cane should be next to the top of
your leg. Your elbow should be slightly bent.

A cane can help if
you have minor problems with balance or steadiness on your feet. It can also
help take a little weight off one leg by shifting some weight to the cane. Your
doctor may recommend a cane if you just need a little help walking comfortably
and safely.

To walk using a cane

The best way to think about
walking with a cane is that you are taking normal steps and just moving the
cane when you would normally swing your arm forward.

Move the cane
at the same time as the opposite leg, just as though you were swinging your
arm. For example, if you are holding the cane in your left hand, move the cane
forward when you step with your right foot. If you are using the cane because
of a painful or weak leg, you will be moving that leg at the same time as the
cane.

  1. Set the cane comfortably ahead of you, so
    it is even with the foot you are stepping with. Don't lean forward to reach
    farther.
  2. Step past the cane with the other
    foot.
  3. Repeat.

To go up or down a curb using a cane

Try this
first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.

  1. Stand near the edge of the curb, and get
    your balance.
  2. If you are going up, step up with your stronger leg,
    then bring your other leg and the cane up to meet it. If you are going down,
    move the cane down first. Step down with your weaker leg first, then bring your
    stronger leg down to meet it. Remember "up with the good, and down with the bad" to help you lead
    with the correct leg.
  3. Get your balance again before you
    start walking.

To use your cane on stairs

Try this first with
another person nearby to steady you if needed.

If a banister is
available, hold on to the banister, and use your cane in the opposite hand. You
will still step with the stronger leg first to go up stairs, and with the
weaker leg first to go down stairs.

  1. Stand near the edge of the
    stairs.
  2. If you are going up, step up with your stronger leg first,
    then bring your other leg and the cane up to meet it. If you are going down,
    move the cane down first. Step down with your weaker leg, then bring your
    stronger leg down to meet it.
  3. Repeat.
  4. When you reach
    the level surface, get your balance again before you start walking.

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Credits

ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy

Current as ofNovember 29, 2017

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