There can be many different reasons you should use a cane. A cane is mainly for balance, and should not been used for complete support.
One big reason why people don’t want to use a cane is because they don’t want to look old. My response is always, well if you fall and break something, you will need a lot more than a cane, and then you will definitely look old.
So when, why and how should you use a cane? Canes come in many different shapes and sizes. Today we will talk about a standard cane and a pronged/quad cane. A standard cane should really be used to help with balance and to help you stand more upright when you walk. A pronged or quad cane has more support at the bottom, and can help stabilize you more if you need more help when walking, but it still should not be used if you are putting more than about 20% of your body weight on it. If this is the case, you should look into getting a walker or crutches.
One of the big things I see is furniture walkers. These are people who use their furniture to hold onto when they are walking at home. They will grab onto the couch or counter top, or even the walls. Since they are at home, they know where everything is, and that makes them feel safe. However, when they get out in the community, they don’t know where things are to grab onto for balance, and then they risk falling and getting hurt.
The other issue can be your pet on the ground. If you don’t have a lot of balance, you might trip over your pet or they might walk in front of you and make you fall.
Sometimes people also drag their foot, which can cause someone to fall. You might also walk differently with a limp or favoring one side. Even if you can walk without falling like this, you risk causing muscle imbalances, and that can make other things hurt.
Once you pick out the cane that is right for you, make sure it is properly fit. The most important part to start with is to make sure your cane is the right height. Most canes have a pin you can push in to change the height. On your upper leg there is a bone that sticks out called your greater trochanter. It is just below your hip. This is where you want the top of the cane. You should have a slight bend in your elbow about 20 degrees. If the cane is too high, you might irritate your shoulder, and if it is too low, you might lean over too much.
Now for the walking part. The cane should be in the opposite hand of the injured side. The cane should always move with the injured side. If the injured side goes forward, the cane goes forward for support. Again, this is how our bodies naturally move; so don't think about it too much. Just move how you would normally move. The cane should be for balance and safety, and if you feel like you are pushing really hard on it, or if you can't walk smoothly, then you probably are not ready for a cane yet.
Once you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy and natural. When we walk normally, our opposite arm swings forward with our opposite leg. When using a cane, you want the same technique so you don't risk injuring something else while you are recovering.
The technique is similar for a pronged or quad cane. Since this one gives you a little more support, you might need to use a step-to instead of step-through pattern. This means instead of stepping all the way through with your step, you will bring the cane and injured side forward, and then just bring the good side right to the cane. This might be for a more serious injury or if you have suffered from a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
So basically, if you don’t feel like you are walking normally. If you are off balance or limping, you should use a cane.
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