How to Use a Cane to Improve Mobility and Minimize Pain

More than 16 percent of senior citizens currently rely on canes to help them get around. These popular mobility aids aren’t just for the elderly, though. Plenty of younger people rely on canes for temporary support as they recover from injuries too.

Whichever camp you fall into, it’s important to know how to use a cane properly. Otherwise, you’ll likely start to experience more pain, particularly in your shoulder and hip.

Read on for some practical advice on how you can use a cane — either short- or long-term — to improve your mobility and minimize pain.

Benefits of Using a Cane

Jump to section

  • Benefits of Using a Cane
  • Types of Canes
    • Important Features
  • How to Make Sure Your Cane Fits
  • How to Use a Cane Correctly
    • How to Use a Cane on the Stairs

When it comes to choosing a mobility aid, there are lots of options available. Canes remain the most popular choice, though, due to the number of benefits that come with using them. Some of the greatest benefits that come with using a cane instead of another mobility aid include:

  • Improved posture to protect the joints and prevent injuries

  • Reduced risk of forming bad walking habits to compensate for pain or poor mobility

  • Easier control and less of a learning curve

  • Accessibility to places that might not easily accommodate scooters or walkers

A cane is also a great walking aid for recovering individuals who only need temporary support. Because it’s less expensive than other aids, it’s also more accessible to people of all income levels.

Types of Canes

The first step to figuring out how to use a cane properly is to make sure you have the right style and fit.

There are three primary types of canes that you can choose from:

  • Single-point canes

  • Three-point canes

  • Quad-point canes

When most people imagine a cane, they think of a single-point cane. It simply has one point at the end with either a straight or curved handle. This type of cane is best for people who only need a little extra support — they’re not designed to support someone’s entire body weight. People with mild-to-moderate arthritis usually do fine with just a single point cane.

A three-point cane has — you guessed it — three points at the end. It provides a little extra stability and is a better option for people who need more support than what they can get using just a single-point cane.

A quad-point cane — also known as a broad-based cane — has four separate tips at its base and a flat handle to make it easier to grip. It’s the best option for someone (such as those with neurological impairments) who needs maximum support and weight bearing.

Important Features

In addition to choosing the right type of cane, you should also look for the following features to make sure you’re getting a quality item:

  • Rubber tip (or tips) to prevent slipping)

  • Ergonomically designed or molded rubber grip that’s comfortable to grasp

  • Folding capabilities if you travel frequently

How to Make Sure Your Cane Fits

It’s important to make sure your cane is fitted to your body specifically. If it’s too short, you’ll slouch and hurt your back. If it’s too tall, you won’t get as much as support as you need.

The easiest way to make sure a cane fits properly is to stand up straight with your arms hanging at your sides. Have someone hold the cane next to you. Make sure its top lines up with the crease of your wrist. Your arm should bend slightly at the elbow when you grip the handle.

Make sure you’re wearing regular walking shoes while you get measured. That way, you’ll know it will work with your everyday attire.

Another good rule of thumb is to divide an individual’s height in half. If someone is buying the cane for you and you can’t accompany them, this trick usually works. However, it’s best to be there to guarantee the fit is right the first time.

How to Use a Cane Correctly

One of the biggest mistakes people make when learning how to use a cane it using it on the weak side of their body. In reality, though, you need to hold it on your strong side and move it with your weak side.

When you walk, you should hold the cane about two inches either to the side or in front of your body. Then, move the cane and your affected leg together so that your weight is more balanced.

This will help prevent soreness and keep you from forming bad walking habits.

How to Use a Cane on the Stairs

Many people also struggle with figuring out how to use a cane on the stairs. When you ascend, start with your strong leg. Then, follow with the cane and your affected leg.

When you descend, start with the cane, then follow with your weak leg. Your strong leg should come last.

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