Using a Walker

Using a Walker

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 walker

A walker with four legs is the most
stable walking aid. Your doctor will recommend a walker if you need to keep all
or nearly all the weight off one leg, if your general strength or endurance is
decreased, or if your balance is not always good.

Be sure your
walker fits you. When you stand up in your normal posture and rest your hands
on the walker's hand grips, your hands should be even with the tops of your
legs. Your elbows should be slightly bent.

To walk using a walker

  1. Set the walker at arm's length in front of
    you
    , with all four legs on the floor. If your walker has wheels on the front
    legs, just take your weight off your hands and push the walker
    forward.
  2. Use the handles of the walker for balance as you move your
    weak or injured leg forward to the middle area of the walker. Don't step all
    the way to the front.
  3. Push straight down on the handles of the
    walker as you bring your good leg up, so it is even with your injured
    leg.
  4. Repeat.

To go up or down a curb using a walker

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

  1. Stand as close to the edge as you can while
    keeping all four legs of the walker on the surface you're standing
    on.
  2. When you have your balance, move the walker up or down, to the
    surface you are moving to.
  3. Push straight down on the handles for
    balance and to take weight off your injured leg.
  4. If you are going
    up, step up with your stronger leg first, then bring your weaker or injured leg
    up to meet it. If you are going down, 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.
  5. Get your balance
    again before you start walking.

To use your walker on stairs

Most people should
not use a walker on stairs. Talk with your physical therapist to see whether it
is appropriate for you to use your walker on the stairs. If it is, have your
physical therapist show you how to do this correctly.

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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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