How to Use a Cane Correctly | A Quick Guide

Last Updated: 25.09.20

 

Having a cane can greatly improve your balance and walking speed if used correctly. However, if you’re bound to a wheelchair, you might want to consider wheelchair gloves to make your life easier. In this guide, you will learn the basics, as well as some tips and tricks on how to choose the cane best suited for you.

 

Things to note before buying

Even if your walking speed and balance have taken a severe fall recently, there might be a chance that you don’t necessarily need a cane. Always consult with a physician before jumping to conclusions. Your physical therapist will instruct you on what you should do according to your personal situation. You will never know for sure what you need until the doctor’s verdict.

If, after the consultation, your doctor decides that you need a walking cane, you should invest in a good pair of walking shoes. You need to look for a pair that’s both comfortable and long-lasting because chances are you will spend a good amount of time with those shoes on your feet, especially if you have no one to take care of you or shop for groceries.

Next, you should search for a cane that suits your budget, needs, and liking. No one wants to be stuck with something that they won’t enjoy using or looking at. If you have enough money, you can buy more canes that go well with many of the pieces in your wardrobe. That will also help your self-esteem because you will look stylish even with your crippling condition.

Last but not least, make sure that the cane is the right size for you. If the cane is too short or too long, you won’t be able to use it comfortably. Obviously, this will only make you struggle more and, in the long run, make your condition much worse. Always consult with an expert before choosing the size and shape of the cane.

The ideal cane length is usually half of your height with walking shoes on. Of course, this can vary slightly if you have a hunchback, in which case your physician will give you the correct measurements.

Choosing the grip

Most times, choosing a grip is a matter of personal preference, but sometimes you will have to stick to ones that help with your limitations. If you have arthritis, you’ll most likely have trouble grasping with your fingers, so getting a larger grip is not only recommended, but it is absolutely necessary. 

Choosing a grip that’s perfectly suited for you will not only make your life easier, it will also prevent further joint deformities. Not to mention that your injured leg will heal much faster the less impact it absorbs. It’s better sometimes to focus on practicality rather than style. And in cases like these, it’s absolutely crucial.

 

The basics of using a cane

Hold the cane in the hand that’s on the same side as your good leg. While this may seem counterintuitive, it’s actually the correct way to proceed when trying to hold your balance. When adult humans walk, they do so instinctively, so they don’t think much about keeping their balance. It just comes naturally.

They stride with their feet and swing their arms slightly at the same time. When they bring forward their left leg, they swing their right arm. When the right leg goes forward, they swing their left arm. So, when you only have one leg, you will instinctively swing the opposing hand. That’s why you need to hold the cane in the same arm as your good leg.

However, if your feet are fine and you’re just using a cane for balance, consider putting it in your non-dominant hand. For instance, if you are right-handed, use your cane with your left hand. That way, you are free to do all the basic stuff you need with your dominant hand. Doing things with the other hand can be confusing and painstakingly awkward most times.

Now let’s get back to the walking process. When you put your bad leg forward, move the cane forward as well and try to put weight on them together to allow the cane to absorb most of the impact. Don’t use the cane when stepping with your good leg. Practice this until it becomes natural. Don’t give up if you don’t do it right on your first few tries.

 

Using canes on stairs

Normally, it’s not recommended to walk on stairs that don’t have a banister. But sometimes, you are left with no other choice. In those instances, it is recommended to have someone with you that you can hold on to as to not lose your balance. 

However, if there’s no one around to help you, bring your strong leg forward, put your cane one step in front of your strong leg and slowly bring forward your bad leg on the same step as your strong leg. 

To maintain a better balance in these scenarios, try sticking your free arm forward or sideways depending on your position.  But it is best to avoid these scenarios altogether. Don’t try it unless you absolutely need to.

If the stairs you’re going to need to walk on have a banister, then you’re safe. The process becomes easier over time as you get used to using a cane to go up or down the stairs. To walk upstairs, put your hand on the banister and hold the cane in the opposite hand. 

Bring your strong leg forward on the first step and bring the injured leg on the same step while holding the cane on that step as well. Rinse and repeat until you’ve finished walking up the stars.

To walk downstairs, place your hand on the banister and hold the cane in your opposite hand, just as you would do when walking upstairs. Now try to take the first step with your injured leg and cane at the same time. Once done, bring your strong leg forward on the same step. Repeat this process until you’ve reached the bottom.

Remember to check the tip

You might’ve noticed that most canes have a rubber tip on the bottom. The tip is there to provide improved traction on most surfaces. Think of it the same way you would think of a car tire. If your cane’s tip looks worn out, don’t hesitate to go to your nearest pharmacy or medical supply store and get a replacement.

And just like with your car’s tires, if the tip gets too worn out, you’ll find yourself losing balance. This can lead to nasty accidents or even to your death. Take care of the cane and its tip as if your life depended on it. Because until or if your leg gets better, you won’t be able to go anywhere without it. 

 

Other advice

Don’t try to act like a hero to impress others. Don’t go trekking on mountains or even on non-paved roads. While you might miss the sensation of walking through nature, it is best to avoid it altogether. Even athletes and people who can keep their balance well avoid going on such adventures if one of their legs is injured.

If certain bullies try to taunt you because you use a cane to walk, it’s best to ignore them. Getting sad or, worse, getting into a fight with them will only cause more trouble. So it’s best to just mind your own business and live your life as if nothing happened. And if you happen to get into a fight, it might not be the best idea to use your cane to hit others because it can break.

 

Closing thoughts

Using a cane will be hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be using it as if you were born with it. You can still have a happy life even in this condition as long as you realize that you are lucky enough to live in an era where medical expertise has advanced tremendously. If you had lived more than 100 years ago, your chances of recovery would have been zero.

Today, however, things are much easier. And as long as you’ve got friends and family to support you, your situation will become significantly more bearable. Keep your heads up and look to a brighter future. Things do get better when you have a positive outlook on life.

 

 

Ioana Moldovan

Ioana is a lifelong learner with extensive work experience in the public health field. She is passionate about science and psychology and is constantly curious about how these can change people’s lives for the better. Her goal is to gather valuable information that can help her readers.

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