When used properly, a walking cane is a ticket to freedom and mobility. However, there are three common mistakes that can make using a cane far less effective and even dangerous. Don’t take another step with your cane until you read this!
1. Walking with the Cane on Your Weak Side
Actually, you place it on your strong side, but move it with your weak side. Colorado-based physical therapist Brian Benjamin of ProActive Physical Therapy and Exercise Center offers these tips:
- Plant it about two inches in front of or beside you
- Make sure that it is not placed too far away from your body
- Move it and your weak leg in tandem, like you’d normally swing your arm when walking
- Be mindful to keep the burden evenly split between your strong and weak sides
The idea is to shift body weight away from your weaker side and towards your stronger side instead, relieving your weak side of some of the load and protecting your joints.
2. Using Your Cane to Help You Sit Down and Stand Up
Supporting part of your body weight on your walking aid when sitting or standing can cause you to lose control of it due to height and weight imbalances, potentially resulting in a compromised grip and a subsequent fall.
While it’s okay to keep your hand on your cane when you stand or sit, you should never put your weight on it when you stand or sit the way you would when walking. Instead, place your free hand on the arm of the chair and place your weight on it when standing or sitting. Use it to steady yourself as you descend to sit and use it pull yourself up when you want to stand.
3. Not Using One (Because It Would Slow You Down)
Some assume that a walking aid is a clumsy, extra appendage that hampers speed. However, a 2010 study showed that self-reported walking speed for everyday cane users aged 65 or over was about the same as their walking speed without it. This suggests that whether you’re using a cane or not, you’ll still perceive your walking speed as being the same.
Canes don’t impair walking ability anymore than ski poles impair skiing ability. Like a ski pole, it can propel you when you’re going uphill and steady you when going downhill. Speed and mobility are enhanced because your body weight is balanced.
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