The proper way to walk with a cane includes holding it on the opposite hand from the side needing support and moving it at the same time as you step forward with the affected leg.
Canes are valuable assistive devices that can help you walk safely when you’re dealing with concerns such as pain, injury, or weakness. You may use a cane for an indefinite time or while you’re recovering from surgery or a stroke.
Either way, canes can make walking easier, safer, and more comfortable. They can also help you go about your daily activities efficiently. In fact, a cane may make it possible for you to live independently while remaining active and mobile.
Canes are beneficial for people who have walking abnormalities, a risk of falling, concerns with balance, pain, or weakness, especially to the hips, knees, or feet.
Below are some tips that can help you properly, safely, and confidently walk with a cane.
1. For beginners
- Hold your cane in the hand that’s opposite the side that needs support.
- Position the cane slightly to the side and about 2 inches forward.
- Move your cane forward at the same time as you step forward with your affected leg.
- Hold the cane steady in place as you walk forward with your unaffected leg.
Ask someone to supervise you and possibly help support or stabilize you when you’re first getting comfortable walking with your cane. Make sure you feel fully confident before you venture out on your own.
Speak up if you ever find yourself in need of assistance while using your cane. Come up with a plan for what you’ll do if you find yourself in this situation.
2. On the stairs
Use extra care when you navigate steps or a curb with your cane.
- Hold onto the handrail for support.
- If only one of your legs is affected, step up with your unaffected leg first.
- Then, step up at the same time with your affected leg and cane.
- To walk down the stairs, put your cane on the lower step first.
- Then, step your affected leg onto the step, followed by your unaffected leg.
3. Sitting down into a chair
When possible, sit in chairs that have armrests.
- Position yourself in front of the chair so that the edge of the seat touches the backs of your legs.
- For a single-tip cane, keep one hand on your cane and place your other hand on the armrest.
- Gently lower down into the chair.
4. After knee surgery
If you’ve had knee surgery, you’ll be asked to stay active as you rehabilitate. You may need a cane for assistance when performing your physical therapy exercises.
You must do exercises to build strength, stability, and balance. Your physical therapist will teach you how to get out of bed, go to the bathroom, and complete all of your other activities.
You’ll also work on improving your range of motion.
5. For hip pain
You may need to use a cane while healing from a hip injury or surgery.
You can also do exercises to strengthen your back, core, and lower body.
6. To prevent falls
Wear supportive shoes that have nonslip rubber soles. Use extra care when walking on waxed floors, slippery rugs, or wet surfaces.
Also, buy a new rubber tip for your cane if your current one becomes worn or loses its traction.
7. Use a quad cane
The four tips of a quad cane offer a wider base that provides support, stability, and balance. However, they’re more cumbersome and may be more challenging to navigate. Make sure you can adeptly maneuver this type of cane.
When using a quad cane on the stairs, you may need to turn it to the side so that it fits on the stair.
To sit down in a chair using a quad cane, continue to hold the cane in one hand and place your other hand on the armrest. Then, gently lower down into the chair.
You must exercise caution when using a cane. The rubber-tipped end of your cane will help with grip and allow for traction on walking surfaces. However, use extra caution when using your cane in wet, icy, or slippery conditions.
Also, replace the tip if the tread has too much wear and tear.
Here are a few additional safety tips:
- Gaze straight ahead instead of looking down.
- Make sure your cane is completely stable before you walk forward.
- Avoid positioning your cane too far forward, as it could slip.
- Keep walkways clear of anything that could obstruct your path, such as electrical cords, clutter, or furniture.
- Be mindful of pets, children, and slippery rugs.
- Ensure that all your walkways are well-lit. Put in night-lights on the route from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- Use nonslip bath mats, safety bars, and a raised toilet seat in your bathroom. You can also use a shower tub seat.
- Set up and organize your living space so that all the items you’ll need access to are easy to reach.
- Use a backpack, fanny pack, or cross-body bag to keep your hands free. You can also use an apron or attach a small bag to your cane using Velcro.
You should select a cane that fits properly and is comfortable. Take your strength, stability, and fitness level into consideration when you’re choosing a cane.
Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to choose the best cane for your needs. They can also teach you how to use it correctly.
Think about the grip
Select a cane with an appropriate grip. Foam grips and grips shaped to fit your hand are also options. To reduce stress to your hand, choose a curved or rounded grip handle.
Large grips may be preferable if you have arthritis or joint pains that make it challenging to tightly grasp the grip. Having a proper grip will ensure that you don’t stress your joints. It will also help prevent joint irregularities, numbness, and pain in your hand and fingers.
Get the size right
Make sure your cane is the correct size for your body, and select an adjustable one if you want to be able to make modifications.
When holding your cane, your elbow should be bent at about a 15-degree angle, or slightly more if you use your cane to help with balance.
Consider a seat
A seat cane has a small seat attached to it. This allows you to stop and take a break as needed.
If you’ve tried using a cane on your own and still don’t feel confident or completely steady, talk to a physical therapist. They can help you build the muscle strength, balance, and coordination necessary to use your cane safely and correctly.
A physical therapist can also ensure that your cane fits correctly, which can reduce falls and injuries. They can give you exercises to do on your own and check in with you to see how you progress.
Learning to use a cane safely may be an adjustment, but it’s important to do so correctly.
Use a cane that fits you properly. Create a safe environment in your house and get plenty of practice completing your daily tasks so that you can go about your days with greater ease. Always request supervision or assistance if you need it.
Talk to a physical therapist if you’d like to learn how to use a cane properly or do exercises to build body strength, balance, and stability.