As per health experts walking is a good physical activity, but for some it is a challenge due to old age, injuries or health ailments. However, an assistive device like a walking stick or crutches may help in enabling mobility. But no walking aid is a ‘one size fits all’ and each one has its own function and purpose. Therefore, choosing the right walking aid and learning how to use it is vital.
A walking cane constitutes a handle, shaft and a tip. It is chosen based on the shape, quality and material of these components.
Handle: They come in different materials and shapes. Usually they are made up of wood, rubber, plastic or foam. People with pain may prefer foam or rubber for cushioning affect, while plastic and wood are relatively more durable.
The shape of the handle may range from anatomical handle, which allows even spreading of the pressure on the palm providing better grip; Crooked and Derby handle that lets the user hang the stick over a hand or a chair when not in use. Right angled handles are grooved with finger support, while Swan Neck handle allows the person’s weight evenly spread on the stick.
Shaft: It is usually made of metal or wood. Height of the shaft is crucial while choosing a walking stick.
Tip: It constitutes the bottom part of the stick that provides the grip. It is typically made of rubber to provide support and reduce wearing.
Walking canes can be broadly classified into:
Standard canes are basic canes with a handle, shaft and tip. Its function is to provide support and grip. These are usually made of wood or metal.
Tripod (canes with three tips) and Quad canes (with four tips) as the name suggests have multiple tips. This is generally used by people with severe mobility issues. Multiple tips provide stronger support and grip to the user.
Folding canes can be easily shrunk and slipped into a small bag when not in use. These come with height adjustable feature and are made of metal.
Speciality canes are the canes with special feature such as cane seat (a cane with a foldable seat) or torchlight etc.
Forearm Crutches: They are fundamentally similar to canes and are used in singles unlike the conventional crutches. They extend up to the arm and ring around the forearm for extra support. They are equipped with gutter armrest and trough that spreads the weight of the user through forearm.
Elbow crutches: Similar to forearm crutches, elbow crutches are used for better support. They come with a cuff which is closed or partially open. Nevertheless, they can be used in singles or in pair.
Based on the your height and comfort an appropriate cane can be chosen using few simple measures:
If you are already using a cane and want to change it, measure the cane from lowest part on the top of the handle to the rubber tip.
Keep the floor free of clutter. Remove loose mats or rugs to avoid falls.
Avoid depending on walking cane on a wet floor. Add grab bars and railings in bathrooms/kitchen and other wet zones.
Please do not use a walking cane to rise from a seated position. They can slip and hurt you further.
The correct way to walk with a Cane: Always keep the walking stick on the side of the good leg and not on the side of the injured leg. When you walk, move it in sync with the injured leg to maintain your balance. This also keeps the weight off your injured leg.
If you are hurt in the right leg, hold the walking stick in your left hand and move forward naturally. Left Foot forward > Right foot forward with Walking stick > Left foot forward....
While climbing stairs use a second walking cane for support. Follow four-point gait to enable stability i.e. put one stick forward followed by the opposite leg and then the other stick with opposite leg.
Use good footwear that provides better grip and support. Stay away from heels and uncomfortable footwear.
Choosing a right cane with comfortable handle is crucial for improving your lifestyle. However, make sure to consult your physician before changing or choosing a cane.
By Sai Ratna Manjari
Guest Author & Technical Researcher
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