Whether recovering from an injury or illness, working to maintain physical fitness or mobility, or just looking for ways to support daily physical activity, using a cane wisely can help maximize your safety and enjoyment of physical activity. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the basics of how to use a cane – choosing the right cane type for your needs, proper positioning of the cane for appropriate height, types of movements to support physical activity, and tips for safe usage of your cane.
The Most Common Reasons For Using a Cane
- A cane is a great tool for those with mobility issues, including those with arthritis, stroke rehabilitation, injury, and balance issues. A cane can help support your leg and decrease the stress on your joints.
- Canes are also useful for helping stabilize your posture and balance as you walk. Using a cane can help increase your ability to walk longer distances and over uneven terrain.
- A standard cane is generally appropriate for those with mild sensory, coordination, or balance problems.
- Canes can be a helpful tool for individuals of any age who are seeking to improve their walking ability.
When Is A Cane Not A Good Choice?
Canes are intended to provide balance and not full-weight support. This means people using a cane should be able to walk with reasonable stability without relying on their cane too much or being unable to walk without assistance. For those needing this type of support, a walker or crutches may be a better choice.
Parts Of A Cane
The parts of a cane include the handle, shaft, and ferrules.
The handle is the part of the cane that a person holds on to when walking. The handle should fit comfortably in the hand and be durable to withstand frequent use.
The ferrules are the metal pieces that connect the shaft and handle and help provide stability. They can be made of various materials, including plastic or rubber.
The shaft is the part of the cane that extends from the handle and is made of material such as wood, metal, or carbon fiber polymer.
The shaft should be long enough to support the weight of the user. Still, it should also be flexible enough to bend easily without breaking.
The tip is the rubber part at the bottom of the cane. There is a single-tip and a quad-tip.
Choosing A Cane
When choosing a cane, there are a few things to consider:
- A cane should be adjusted to your height in order to provide optimal support and stability.
- Too short a cane can cause instability and difficulty walking, while too long a cane can make it difficult to hold and use.
- To measure for the right height, use a tape measure and measure the distance from your wrist to the floor. Use this measurement to choose a cane that is the same distance from the handle of the cane to the floor.
You can choose between single-tip and quad canes with four tips to suit your requirements and comfort level.
A single-tip cane is convenient and easy to use, but a quad cane offers better support for walking longer distances.
Different types of canes have varying levels of grip ability, which may impact how comfortable they are to use.
There are handles made from wood, rubber, or plastic, and they may have additional features like finger loops or padding.
Using A Cane
Position The Cane Properly
It’s important to walk with a cane in the correct position for support. This gives the injured leg the support it needs to walk smoothly and safely.
When holding a cane, make sure the top of the cane reaches to the crease of your wrist and your elbow is slightly bent. This ensures that your hand is positioned at the correct height for walking.
Walking with a cane requires some coordination and practice. When walking with a cane, you should hold it on the side of your body opposite your weaker leg. This ensures that your stronger leg has better balance and stability.
Also, make sure you are properly balanced when holding the cane. The cane should only move as much as the distance of your step; you should not feel like it is too far ahead of you.
Make The Right Movements
While walking with a cane may look easy, it’s a skill that must be learned. It’s important to practice walking with your cane so you can maneuver around your home and outside safely.
It’s best to practice walking with your cane at home before venturing out, especially in crowded areas. The more you walk with your cane, the more comfortable you will become using it.
Video: How to Use A Cane
When taking a step, start with your stronger leg while moving your cane forward in the same direction. Next, shift your weight to the cane for support as you take a step with your affected leg. The video below will give you a great visual of the proper technique.
When turning, it is important to pivot on your strong leg, not the weaker one. This will help ensure that your body stays balanced and stable.
Going Up or Down a Set of Stairs/A Step/A Curb
When walking up or down stairs with a cane, it’s crucial to use caution to avoid falling. Whenever possible, have someone nearby to help steady you. Also, if provided, use a handrail when going up or down stairs.
While going upstairs, place the cane in the hand opposite the injured leg.
Step up with the uninjured leg first, then move the cane and injured leg up to meet it.
When walking downstairs, put the cane on the step below with the injured leg, and finally, move the uninjured leg to meet them.
To get a visual of the process, watch the video above.
The first step when starting to sit is to lean on the cane with the unaffected side of your body and move to the edge of the seat.
Use your hands to feel behind you for the seat of the chair. Slowly lower yourself into the seat, allowing your leg to bend naturally and straighten as needed. Once seated, adjust your position as necessary for comfort and stability.
When standing up you should push up from the armrest of the chair or bed and hold the handle of the cane in your hand opposite the leg injured. In this way, you can use your stronger leg to help support your weight and balance.
Safety should always be at the top of your mind when using a cane. Here are some tips to consider:
- Make sure your adjustable cane is secure and locked in place before using it.
- Ask someone to stay close when you practice using your cane so that they can help if needed.
- Exercise caution when using a cane in wet, icy, or slippery conditions.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes with rubber or non-slip soles for added security and stability.
- Gaze straight ahead instead of looking down, and make sure your cane is completely stable before walking forward.
- Avoid obstructions on walkways, such as electrical cords, clutter, or furniture, and be mindful of pets, children, and slippery rugs.
- Ensure walkways are well-lit and put in night lights from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- Inspect the cane regularly for worn tips and handles.
Build Up Your Endurance
Using a cane can take some getting used to, so it is important to start with short distances and gradually build up your endurance over time. Begin with five minutes of walking and slowly increase your distance as your strength and confidence grow.
Take Regular Breaks
Taking breaks while using a cane will help you not overwork your body. Notify your doctor if your muscles become tired or sore, as this may indicate a need for additional support or a different type of cane.
You might be interested in reading: Wooden Walking Canes
Which is better, a walking stick or a walking cane?
The short answer is that it depends on your purpose for using them.
Walking sticks are better for outdoor adventures such as camping or hiking.
Whereas walking canes are more suitable for everyday use or medical purposes like providing balance or support to an injured leg.
Which side do you use a cane on?
Generally, when using a cane, you should use it on the opposite side of your injured leg or knee.
This is because it helps to reduce the pressure placed on the weak leg while walking for a more comfortable and efficient gait.
If you have recently been injured or are experiencing mobility issues, using a cane can help you regain independence.
Start with short distances and gradually build up your endurance as you get used to the cane. Be sure to take regular breaks and notify your doctor of any muscle soreness or fatigue.
My hope in you reading How to Use A Cane: A Beginners’ Guide is that you have gained some knowledge in the proper use of using a cane and have gained insight into how to use one correctly and safely.
Remember to use your cane only as directed by your doctor, therapist, or physical therapist, and always follow their instructions carefully to ensure safe usage and prevent injury.
Do you have any tips for using a cane? Please comment below.