Walking with a Cane
Canes are similar to crutches in that they can be very helpful in decreasing the load through an injured or painful lower extremity joint and thereby help to control symptoms. However, they are not necessarily as powerful in minimizing loading as using crutches. Canes tend to work best for patients with small problems with balance or instability; some weakness in their leg or trunk; or an injured or painful joint.
Fitting a cane
To optimize the benefits of using a cane, the top of the cane should come up to the crease of your wrist when you stand up straight. The elbow should be a little bent when you hold the cane.
Using a cane
There are two ways to use a cane. In order to achieve the most off-loading in the affected hip, it is used in the same hand as the involved hip. For example, if your right hip is hurting, putting the cane down on the right side while stepping results in almost all of the force going through the cane and very little through the hip. While using the cane in the same hand as the affected hip enables you to off-load the hip more, the downside is that you end up walking with a very asymmetric gait, and the shift in torque puts a lot of stress on your back.
A much more common way to use a cane is on the opposite side of the involved hip so that the cane and involved leg swing and strike the ground at the same time. If your right hip is painful or recovering from surgery, put the cane in your left hand. As you step forward, put 50% of your weight on your right leg and 50% of your weight on your left hand and then step forward with the left leg. This method is preferred because it enables you to have a much more symmetric gait (more like a normal walking pattern) and avoid walking with a significant limp.
To go upstairs with a cane, use the handrail for assistance and step up on the “good” leg first. Then, using the cane on the opposite side of the affected him so that it takes half of the load, step with the affected side. To go downstairs, first put the cane down on the step, followed by the affected leg. Then put down the “good” leg, which should carry most of the load.
Keywords: Cane, fitting a cane, walking with a cane