Cane Selection and Use

Using a cane improves stability and balance by taking weight off of the leg opposite the side of the cane. There are 4 types of canes available. Each one provides a different amount of support. Ask your doctor or physical therapist to help you select the type of cane that is right for you.

  • Standard cane. Standard canes are single point canes designed to provide an additional point of contact with the ground to help with balance. They are best for people who need little to no upper-extremity weight bearing. They are inexpensive, are usually made from aluminum or wood and the length can be easily adjusted.

  • Offset cane. Offset canes are very similar to single point canes, but their design allows for more weight bearing than a standard cane, and are helpful for people who have mild pain with walking. 

  • Quad cane. This has a rectangle base and 4 short legs. It comes in a small and wide base. This type provides more support than standard or offset canes. They are good for people who have weakness in one arm or leg, or people who have moderate to severe pain with walking.

  • Hemi-walker cane. This is a combination of a quad cane and a walker. It's for people who have more severe weakness on one side, and for those learning to transition from a walker to a cane.

Cane size

Choose the right cane size for your height. When standing with your arm hanging down at your side, the top of the cane should be level with your wrist crease. When holding the cane, your elbow should have a slight (20°) bend. Ask for help when purchasing your cane, if you are unsure about the cane size.

Cane use

The following tips will help you properly use your cane:

  1. Using your cane properly will increase stability and balance while walking or standing. You should use your cane on the opposite side of your injury or weakness, regardless of which hand is your dominant one.

  2. When you start walking, start by putting all of your weight on your strong leg, then step with your affected leg and the cane at the same time. The cane and your weak leg should swing and strike the ground at the same time.

  3. With your weight supported on both your cane and your affected leg, step through with your unaffected leg.

  4. When using a cane for balance, plant your cane firmly on the ground before you take a step. 

  5. Going up and down stairs:

    • To climb stairs, holding your cane on the side of your strong leg, grasp the handrail (if possible) with the arm of your affected leg. Step up with your good leg first.  Remember: “Up with the good.” Then move the cane and your affected leg to the same step.

    • To come down stairs, first place the cane and the affected leg on the next step down. Remember: “Down with the bad.” Then, using the cane to support you and holding onto the handrail (if possible), lower the strong leg to the same step.

Fall prevention

Always be sure the tip on your cane is in good shape. A worn tip is more likely to cause a slip on ice, snow, or a wet surface. Use a wide tip that fits snugly on your cane. For winter use, ask about an “ice-gripping” device for the bottom of your cane.

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