How do you use a cane?
If you need to improve stability and balance or reduce the demand on muscles and tendons that might still be inflamed or weak after surgery, a cane can get you on your feet and allow you to be more active, helping you strengthen your body and giving you some independence.
To avoid instability and falls, it's important that you select the right cane and use it properly. Here's what you need to know about which cane to get and how to use it.
Types and fit
Standard: These canes have a C- or T-shaped handle. They are good if you need help with balance, and the cane doesn't have to bear a lot of weight.
Offset: The upper part of the shaft bends outward, and it can bear more weight than a standard cane. An offset cane's handle is usually flat, which makes it a good choice for people whose hands are weak.
Multi-leg: These canes have three or four short legs branching from the main shaft and offer the most support. However, all the legs must be solidly planted on the ground with each step, which can slow your pace. One helpful feature of a multi-leg cane is that it can stand on its own when not in use.
Handle: Try different handle designs to see which is easiest to grip and which feels most comfortable when you walk. Avoid metal handles, which can be slippery when you perspire and too cold to touch on cold days.
Length: To find the right length for you, stand up straight, wearing the shoes you'll use for walking, and let your arms hang at your sides. Have someone measure the distance from the floor to the inside of your wrist (where the palm meets the wrist) of the hand you'll be using. When you're standing straight and holding your cane upright, your elbow should be flexed at a 15- to 30-degree angle.
For this example, let's say your right leg is weak and needs support.
1. Hold the cane in the hand opposite the side that needs support — in this case, your left hand.
2. Position the cane about four inches to the side of your left leg.
3. Distribute your weight evenly on both legs, using the cane for support.
4. Shift your weight onto your stronger (left) leg.
5. Place the cane tip a few inches ahead of you; then bring your right leg forward so that it's even with the cane (the cane helps support your weight).
6. Now, move your stronger leg up even with the cane, and start the sequence over again.
As you gain more experience, move the cane and your affected leg forward together so that they strike the ground at the same time — always bearing your weight on the stronger leg. Move your other leg forward, stepping beyond the cane tip. Repeat the sequence. Be sure to place the cane on the ground firmly and not too far ahead of you.
Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.