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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 decrease the stress on a painful joint
or limb. Using a walking aid can help you be more safe and independent in your
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
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
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
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
first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.
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.
April 8, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & David A. Fleckenstein, PT, MPT - Physical Therapy
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