Whether you are recovering from an injury or just nursing a painful leg, a cane can help you maintain mobility. When you use a cane, the load carried by your knees, hips, and ankles is significantly reduced. The more weight you put on the cane, the less work your joints are doing with each step. If you have weak joints or chronic pain, a cane can provide tremendous relief.
Canes are beneficial for people who have walking abnormalities, a risk of falling, surgeries, injuries, concerns with balance, pain or weakness, especially to the hips, knees, or feet. You may use a cane for an indefinite time or while you are recovering from surgery or a stroke.
Canes act almost like a third leg, making it easier to balance because your hips and core are no longer responsible for keeping your center of gravity in place. When your hips, back, and abdominals cannot keep your center of gravity from shifting, you are much more likely to lose balance and fall. This is due to an increase in the way your center of gravity shifts naturally as you stand or walk.
To hold and use a cane correctly, you will need to select the right cane type and length for your needs, then hold the cane on the side of your good leg and move the cane forward as you move your bad leg forward. It might feel a little awkward at first, but with practice, you should find this to be a useful walking aid.
Type of Canes
There are different types of canes on the market.
The most common would be adjustable canes, quad canes, and forearm canes.
The 4 Main Types of Canes:
1. Standard or Single Point Canes
A standard single-point cane is the type of cane that is most commonly available at different stores for those searching for a walking aid. It allows users to make better contact with the ground as they take each step, which ultimately makes it easier for them to maintain a steady balance. Those struggling with balance issues can benefit tremendously from using the standard single-point cane. It is also good to know that this type of cane is one of the most affordable options on the market.
Patients with sensory or coordination impairments caused by visual, auditory, vestibular, peripheral proprioceptive, or central cerebellar illness can benefit from this cane.
2. Tripod Canes
If balance and mobility are both priorities for you, consider a tripod walking cane. With three feet instead of four, these canes are lighter and more mobile than quad canes, but they still provide a high level of stability. They are dependable, easy to use, and recommended for people who want to get both the balance and walking gait benefits of canes. Canes with seats often come with three feet.
3. Quad Canes
While the single-point cane helps users make contact with the ground with each step, the quad cane consists of four feet instead of one point. The purpose of having four feet attached to the cane is to prevent the user from slipping on the ground and getting hurt. It is ideal for those who are prone to slipping and those who are struggling a lot more with their mobility than they were before. The quad cane is sturdy and provides even more grip for those who need it, which is something the elderly and disabled tend to appreciate.
4. Hemiwalker Canes
This cane combines the features of a quad cane and a walker. Its base is much larger than any of the described canes above, thus providing the most patient support. Hemiwalkers also provide an additional amount of lateral support. Patients with more severe hemiplegia or those transitioning from using a walker to a cane will benefit from the use of a hemiwalker.
Choosing The Right Cane Size is Very Important
This step is very important. If you have a cane that is either too small or too large it may be even worst than having no cane at all. The good news is that a lot of the newer aluminum and steel canes are adjustable so you can find your perfect length. Cane length is usually about one half the cane user’s height, in inches, wearing shoes. Use this as a rule of thumb. If you are purchasing a cane that does not adjust then you need to make sure the height of that cane is correct and optimal for you.
To select the proper length for a cane, stand up straight with your shoes on and arms at your sides and with the cane straight up next to your leg. The top of the cane should reach the crease on the underside of your wrist.
The second step would be to hold the grip. If the cane is a proper fit, your elbow will be flexed 15-20 degrees when you hold the cane while standing. You should feel comfortable and no pain when holding the cane the proper way.
If your cane is too short, you will need to bend over in order to reach it. If your cane is too long, you will need to lean over onto your injured side in order to use it. Neither option is ideal. A perfectly fitted cane will keep you upright while providing support.
How to Use Your Walking Cane properly
Now that we explained the different types of canes and how to choose the best type of cane in reference to your size, it is time to explain how to use a cane properly.
Follow the below steps to using your cane properly for stability and balance because it is important that you use your cane correctly to get the most out of it
Holding Your Cane
Hold the cane using the hand that is on the same side as your good leg. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. If your left leg is hurt, you should be holding the cane in your right hand. If your right leg is hurt, hold the cane in your left hand. Why is this? When humans walk, we stride with our feet and swing our hands at the same time. But when we stride with our left foot, we swing with our right hand; when we stride with our right foot, we swing with our left hand.
Handling a cane in the hand opposite our injury replicates this natural arm movement, giving your hand an opportunity to absorb some of your weight while you walk. If you’re using a cane for better balance, consider putting it in your non-dominant hand so that you can continue to use your dominant hand for everyday tasks.
Walking With Your Cane
When you start to walk, you will want to move your cane at the same time forward as you move with your injured or weak leg simultaneously. So when you take that step with your good leg your cane and the tip should be firmly on the ground. Place the majority of your weight on your good leg during this so it helps with keeping your injured leg or foot supported as much as possible.
Walking up Stairs With a Cane
Using your cane correctly to walkup stairs can be done and it will make things easier for you. When going up stairs, lead with your good leg. When going down stairs, lead with your weak leg.
Remember to also face forward when traversing stairs. Turning sideways is not recommended. When you have a handrail, use the cane on the opposite side of the handrail when you are walking upstairs. Always place your stronger leg on the next step first and then followed up by your cane, then your bad leg. If the staircase does not have rails, it is even more important to face forward. If you have no handrail then you want to keep the cane on the same size that you would normally use it and then follow the same pattern as you would if there was a handrail.
How to Use a Cane With a Bad Knee
If you have weak or damaged knees or if you suffer from knee osteoarthritis, do not be afraid to put a little bit of weight on your cane. The more you lean on it, the less weight you are putting on your bad knee. That reduces strain, swelling, and pain by reducing the level of stress you are putting on your knee. Remember you want to have your cane move forward the same time your bad leg moves also.
How to Use a Cane for Balance
Using a cane for balance is rather simple. Rather than leaning on the cane every step, the best way to keep upright with a cane is to only lean on it when needed. The most important thing to remember is the proper placement of the cane’s point: parallel to the foot opposite the cane.
People who struggle with balance do not need their cane consistently. Rather, when they do have the occasional loss of balance, they need to be absolutely certain that their cane will be there to keep them from falling down. This is why getting the placement of the cane is so crucial. If the cane point is too far behind your center of gravity, you will not be able to catch yourself before you fall. If the point is too far in front of you, the cane will push you backward instead of holding you upright. If balance is your chief reason to use a cane, make sure it is always being placed under you so that it will hold you up when you need it.
- Be sure your cane is in good condition. Your cane should have grooved rubber tips covering the bottom of each leg(s) of the cane.
- Avoid throw rugs and waxed floors.
- Be careful when walking on wet or slippery surfaces.
- Wear low-heeled, tie shoes for better support.
Contact Ventura Orthopedic Today
If you are suffering from an injury or just general leg or knee weakness and think a cane might help you, it may be time to consult a medical professional. The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. We are committed to helping you through any procedure until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored.
Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.