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Mobility issues are the leading cause of disability among older adults in America. Stiff and painful joints, age-related loss of muscle tone, and infrequent physical activity can lead to walking abnormalities and balance issues, putting seniors at an increased risk for falls. One person over the age of 65 in the U.S. suffers a fall accident every second.
The good news is that the right mobility aid can lower the likelihood of falls and allow seniors to perform their daily activities safely. Canes are a popular option and ideal for many seniors who need assistance maintaining balance or experience muscle weakness or pain on one side. If your medical provider or physical therapist has recommended you use a cane, this guide will teach you how to use one comfortably.
There are three main types of canes: standard, offset, and quad. Let’s take a look at these most common types of canes.
A standard cane has a curved or straight handle that leads to a single tip. Typically, doctors recommend standard canes for people with minor problems. Sometimes, the term single-point cane describes a standard cane.
Like standard canes, offset canes have one tip. The big difference is that the cane isn’t a straight vertical line from the handle to the bottom. Instead, the top of the cane forms a curve similar to the top of the letter “S.” The bend leads to a straight handle that typically has a cushioned grip. An offset cane is generally a good choice for someone with more significant pain due to arthritis or an injury because it can support more weight than a standard option.
A quad cane looks like an offset cane at the top but has a rectangular base with four rubber tips instead of just one. These canes can support a lot of weight and are a good option for people who need extra support. Because of their uniquely designed bases, these canes can stand up independently — like walkers and rollators.
Although they don’t put pressure on or rub the underarms like crutches can, canes can still be uncomfortable for some users. However, it is possible to use this type of walking aid without experiencing discomfort. To use a cane comfortably, do the following.
There’s no one-size-fits-all cane. Which one is right for you depends on the cause of your mobility issues, strength, where you live, and activities. Having the right walking stick for your needs can improve your comfort level. We’ll explain how to choose the perfect cane for you later in this post.
The use of a cane takes some practice. Before you use one for the first time, set the expectation that you’ll need time to adjust and commit to using it while performing your daily tasks for a few weeks. The process will become easier over time, and your comfort level will increase accordingly.
The most crucial aspect of walking comfortably with a cane is technique. Using a cane properly will make a big difference in mobility and quality of life. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions on how to use a cane correctly in different situations.
The first thing you need to know to use a cane comfortably and adequately is which side it goes on. Many seniors use canes because of hip pain, joint pain, an injury on one side, or one weaker leg. In this case, the cane serves as a stand-in for the leg on the affected side, providing support to help you take steadier steps.
Since the assistive device serves as a supplement for the affected leg, the cane goes on that side. For example, if you have pain in your right foot or right hip that causes mobility issues, you would place the cane on the right side and hold it in your right hand. Or, if you had knee surgery on your left side, you’d hold the cane in your left hand.
When walking using a cane for balance, follow this process:
You may need a little help adjusting to your cane at first. Consider having a friend or family member with you while you practice, or talk to your doctor about seeing a physical therapist who can assist you as you take your first steps with the cane.
The right cane can go outdoors and efficiently work inside, even though navigating curbs may seem daunting. Fortunately, you can step up or down smoothly by following these steps.
An easy way to remember which leg goes first is to think “Up with the good, down with the bad.”
As with navigating curbs, using stairs with a cane involves different methods for going up and down. Read on for step-by-step instructions.
How to go from standing to sitting depends on what type of cane you use. If you have a quad cane, put both hands on the arm of the chair and lower yourself down. For a standard cane, hold the cane on your weaker side and grip the arm of the chair. Slowly lower yourself down into the chair.
To stand back up, put the cane slightly in front of you. With a quad type, grip the cane handle with both hands as you rise. If you have a standard cane, grab it with the hand on the weaker side, and hold onto the armrest with the other.
To hold a cane properly, wrap your hand around the grip. If you find this difficult due to stiff fingers or hand pain, look for a cane with an amply cushioned, ergonomic handle. When standing upright, your elbow should have a slight bend of around 15 degrees, and your hand should be slightly in front of your body.
To walk safely with a cane, follow these tips:
As previously mentioned, there is no single ideal cane for everyone. When choosing a cane, consider the following:
The information in this article is no substitute for medical advice. Talk to your healthcare provider about your mobility issues and ask them what type of mobility aid is best based on your specific needs. Then you can use this information as you shop for a new cane.
Getting a cane that is the right height for your needs is vital for both comfort and safety. Generally, the top of the cane should be level with the crease of your wrist when you’re standing upright with normal posture and your arms hanging loose at your sides. To get the correct height, consider having someone measure the distance from this spot to the floor while wearing the shoes you usually wear.
Adjustable canes can be a good alternative because they can be raised or lowered to suit your needs. Most activate with the push of a button. If you have limited finger mobility, look for arthritis-friendly adjustable canes.
Which grip is the best option for you depends on your personal preferences. People who have difficulty grasping things may want a larger grip. If you experience pain or numbness in your fingers when using a cane, the grip type might not be a good fit for your needs.
Some canes have unique features that may be beneficial for you, such as:
Looking for a cane that is lightweight, durable, and designed with stability in mind? Check out Because Market's Adjustable Quad Cane.