Using a walking stick or cane can improve balance and relieve pressure on painful joints or weak muscles. This makes it easier for those with mild to average mobility issues to walk without straining.
But it’s essential to know how to use a walking stick properly. Using it wrongly or using the wrong kind of walking stick can cause more strain and even injuries.
It may seem like an obvious skill but it takes some getting used to. Here are some tips on how to use a walking stick without losing balance or causing any discomfort on your joints.
1. Choose the right type and fit
Make sure you get a walking stick that is comfortable to use. One of the most important factors to consider is the height of the walking stick.
If it is too short, it will strain your body since you have to bend and put more weight on it. It can also make you lose balance.
If it is too high, it will not give you the support you need.
I recommend getting a walking stick that is height-adjustable. This way, you can make it as high or low as you need.
2. Use it on your strong side
One common mistake is to hold the walking stick on your weak side.
This is a bad way to use it as it puts more strain on your weaker side and could cause further injuries. You also won’t be able to support yourself properly.
The walking stick should be used on your stronger side. This takes weight and pressure off your weaker limbs. You’ll be able to support your whole body better and there is a lower risk of losing balance and falling.
If there is no side that’s particularly stronger than the other, then hold the cane in your dominant arm.
3. Master the right walking rhythm
When standing, the walking stick should be just a few inches on your side or in front of you. Don’t position it too far in front or too far behind you.
This ensures you’ll have enough support and balance when you start walking.
To walk, move the stick and your weaker leg at the same time. They should hit the ground in front the stronger leg together.
Then move the stronger leg, which should be in the middle between the cane and the other leg, forward. This leaves the weaker leg and the cane to share the load when your stronger leg is in the air.
It will take some time to get used to this walking style but it’s the best. You’ll walk smoothly without putting any pressure on your weaker side. It also ensures you are always strongly planted on the ground.
4. Going up and down the stairs
If you can grab onto a rail with your free hand when going up or down the stairs, do it. It will boost your balance.
When going up, start with your strong leg and then lift your weaker leg and the cane together. When going down, step down with the cane and weaker leg first before moving your stronger leg.
5. Walking on uneven ground
Be extra careful when walking on a rough path. Always make sure you have a good footing before moving your feet.
When lifting the cane to move it, make sure it clears any rocks or holes on the ground. Otherwise, the cane could get caught in something and cause you to trip.
6. Keep your back straight
Try to keep your posture as straight as you can. Don’t lean too far on any side as that will reduce your balance and put too much pressure on one side.
7. If necessary, upgrade to other walking aids
It’s important to recognize when a walking stick is no longer enough maybe because of reduced strength or inability to hold the stick firmly (e.g. when you have arthritic fingers).
If you feel uncomfortable or less sure on your feet when using a walking stick, consider upgrading to another walking aid.
The next step after a walking stick is usually a walking frame. However, this one also needs lifting. What might be more beneficial is a rollator.
Rollators are walking frames with 4 wheels. You simply push it along as you walk.
If walking becomes too tiresome or painful, consider whether it’s time to get a wheelchair or a mobility scooter.