Walking Aids:
Key Purchase Considerations

Walking aids are now commonplace in society, but it can be surprising just how many people who use an aid bought theirs without professional advice from a specialist.

Choosing the most suitable walking aid involves a many factors, including cognitive function, coordination, physical fitness, upper-body strength and a person's surroundings. Using an inappropriate aid for a prolonged period of time can exacerbate mobility issues, so great care should be taken when selecting a product that will improve the user's quality of life.

Orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists and occupational therapists will make three main assessments before recommending a particular aid.

Is the Aid Required for Balance or the Bearing of Weight?

People with sensory problems or medical afflictions that affect balance often use walking sticks to provide an extra point of contact with the ground for greater peace of mind. This added contact point provides help with balance when it is needed. However, the constant bearing of weight may not be a necessity, and that could mean a simple wooden or cane stick may be appropriate.

Many immobility sufferers prefer wooden walking canes or sticks for aesthetic reasons, but they may not be the most suitable solution for people who need their weight to be supported at all times.

Strong aluminium, stainless steel or carbon-fibre canes will provide a lightweight, extra-strong mobility aid that will bear a large portion of the user's weight. Rollators and trolley walkers are ideal when users need their weight supported, as they provide support to both sides of the body.

What is the Most Appropriate Length for the Walking Aid?

Immobility sufferers should be 'measured' for a walking stick or crutches before making a purchase. Ideally, the elbow should be bent at an angle of between 20 and 30 degrees when the walking stick is held adjacent to the body.

Roughly stated, the length of a walking cane should be about the same as the distance between the ground and the user's wrist. Modern crutches and mobility aids can sometimes be adjusted to provide the user with the most effective walking experience possible. 

A health professional may use a device called a goniometer in order to measure the angle of a patient's elbow while using a walking stick; this information will dictate the optimum length.

Is the Patient Using the Walking Aid Correctly?

A walking stick that is designed to share bodyweight with a leg should be held on the opposite side of the afflicted limb. This can reduce the strain on an injured or immobile limb by up to 70%.

A good walking stick will easily be capable of supporting around 15% of the user's total weight, but heavier patients should seriously consider buying a model made from steel or carbon fibre.

Some stick users develop the bad habit of holding the grip backwards to aid comfort, but that can distribute weight incorrectly and put the user at risk of injury. It is possible, however, to buy sticks with rubber or plastic grips that are designed to be less demanding on the hands.

Unfortunately, some individuals choose inappropriate aids for their condition, which can lead to further problems over time. A simple test can determine what is required, and it involves a medical professional walking around a secure environment with the patient.

Where walking is safe and steady with only the help of one hand, a walking stick should be sufficient. However, in situations where the patient requires the use of both hands for support, a trolley walker or rollator is probably the best option.

Only by seeking professional advice can an immobility sufferer be certain that walking aids are delivering the support and balance required.


Knee Walkers
Walking Cane Buying Tips
How to Select the Right Crutches
Rollators - Your Options

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Published by Jules Sowder



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