After surgery or an acute medical event, a doctor may recommend a cane or walker for safe mobility. Last week, as part of a two part series, we looked at how to choose a walker. This week, we will examine how to choose and use a cane.
A cane can support up to 25% of a user’s weight, and can assist in mobility and confidence. Typically, walkers are recommended for people who are recovering from injuries to the foot or leg, who have a mild balance disorder or who have arthritis of the knees or hips.
The correct height for a cane is measured from the wrist to the floor. The American Geriatric Society offers some recommendations for how to choose a cane:
- Wear your normal shoes and hold your arm with a 20-degree to 30-degree bend in the elbow.
- Ask someone else to measure the distance from your wrist to the floor. This measurement should be about equal to the distance from the point where your leg bone fits into the hip socket to the floor.
- If necessary, adjust the cane to match your measurement. Too-short canes can upset balance, while too-long canes are harder to pick up.
- Aluminum canes can be adjusted with a spring-loaded lock button that allows the tube length to be adjusted, while wooden canes must be cut to the desired length. Talk to a physician or physical therapist if, after adjustment, a cane still doesn’t feel right.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic recommends that cane users who need to bear weight choose a model with four tips, while single-tip canes can be used for balance. Numerous kinds of grips are available to fit any hand.
If using a cane for stability, either hand can be used to grip the cane. If recovering from an injury or if a particular leg is disabled, the cane is usually placed in the opposite hand from the affected leg unless a physician recommends otherwise. In either case, the cane should be moved in unison with the leg opposite the hand holding the cane.
A cane can be an important tool in keeping or regaining mobility after an injury or when having trouble with balance. Choosing the right cane can help you or a loved one remain independent and mobile.