The category of walking aids includes crutches, rollators or walkers, knee scooters and canes. This article focuses on canes, in particular, since they are one of the most frequently used walking aids. Click on the links at the end of this article for information on other types of walking aids.
Choosing the most suitable cane or walking stick for your needs involves many factors, including cognitive function, coordination, physical fitness, upper-body strength and a person's surroundings. If you plan to use a cane for a prolonged period of time, it must be suited to your needs; otherwise, it can exacerbate mobility issues. Therefore, seeking counsel from a qualified healthcare provider is key when selecting an assistive product that will help with your mobility and improve quality of life.
Orthopedic surgeons, physiotherapists and occupational therapists typically make three main assessments before recommending a particular walking aid.
What is the Need: Balance, Bearing of Weight or Both?
People with sensory problems or medical afflictions that affect balance may use a cane 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-fiber canes will provide a lightweight, extra-strong mobility aid that will bear a large portion of the user's weight. Yet, the use of rollators or trolley walkers are preferred when users need their weight supported on both sides of the body.
What is the Most Appropriate Length for a Cane?
Immobility sufferers should be 'measured' for a cane or crutches before making a purchase. Ideally, the elbow should be bent at an angle of between 20 and 30 degrees when the aid 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 cane; this information will dictate the optimum length.
Is the Patient Using the Cane Correctly?
A cane 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.
A good cane 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 fiber.
Experts note that some cane users may develop the bad habit of holding the grip backwards to assist with comfort, but that can distribute weight incorrectly and put the user at risk of injury. It is possible, however, to buy canes 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 cane 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, as noted above.
Only by seeking professional advice can an immobility sufferer be certain that a cane can deliver the support and balance required.
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