Choosing and Using a Cane
Whether you need it to help you keep your balance or to walk after an injury, a cane can be very useful, provided it is adjusted and used properly.
When to use a cane
A cane is a good choice for people with balance problems, in which case it serves as an additional point of contact and can help you navigate obstacles more easily.
A cane is also helpful for people with muscle pain or weakness on one side, as a result of an injury or chronic disease like arthritis. In this case, the cane helps support part of the person’s weight.
Types of canes
There are various types of canes available, and each has its pros and cons.
- Traditional canes have only one point of contact and are often made of wood. While they may be more esthetically pleasing, the only way to adjust them is to cut them to size.
- Adjustable metal canes allow you to adjust their height to ensure greater stability and comfort.
- Tripod or quadripod canes (with three or four prongs) provide a more stable contact with the ground than those with a single tip, however they are heavier and more unwieldy.
Not only do canes come with varying numbers of tips, they also have different kinds of handles. Try a range of handles to see which one gives you the best—and most comfortable—grip.
The right cane at the right height
To avoid putting unnecessary strain on the shoulders and back, and to ensure the cane does its job in the event the person loses their balance, it is essential that it be adjusted to their height.
When adjusting the cane be sure the person is wearing their everyday shoes. Adjust the cane height so the top of the handle is level with the wrist crease when the person’s arms are hanging loosely by their sides.
How to use a cane
When using a cane to support a weak or painful leg, hold the cane in the opposite hand. For example, if the left leg is the bad leg, hold the cane in your right hand. Take a step forward with the weaker leg and swing the cane forward at the same time. While bringing the other leg forward, use the cane to take some of the pressure from your weaker leg.
If you use the cane to help you keep your balance, hold it in the hand on your dominant side - the hand that moves forward reflexively - as this is the side that will react faster. It is usually the hand you write with.
If you have questions about using a cane, consult your pharmacy team or a physiotherapist.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.