How to use a cane

When learning how to use a cane, you need to consider how tall you are, the side you are supporting, your weight, and how much support you need it to give you.

If the cane is for a temporary injury, you'd be better off getting a lightweight aluminum, adjustable model. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.

If you have a long term condition like arthritis, you'll want to learn how to use a cane to help you get around better and also to keep pressure off the joint. Using a cane properly can take as much as 60% of the pressure off the injured body part.

Here is a great article about how to use a cane properly.

Senior Safety - Is Your Cane Adjusted Properly and Are You Using it on the Correct Side?
By Ronna Sather

So often I see someone using a cane that probably belonged to someone else and was never re-fitted, which can create a dangerous fall hazard. To make matters even worse, they fight the body's natural reciprocal tendency and use it on the wrong side. Yikes, an accident waiting to happen!

How tall should your cane be? Generally, about one-half your height. More specifically, when the rubber tip is on the floor, the top of the cane should reach the upper inside crease of your wrist when your arms are relaxed at your sides and you are wearing your usual shoes. From this position, when you grasp a properly adjusted cane, your elbow should be bent approximately 25-30 degrees. Many canes are adjustable with a simple push-button mechanism. You may want to first use this type to get the right height and then as a guide for any cane which needs to be cut.

If my left leg is weak do I use my cane on the left side or the right side? With movements involving upper and lower extremities, the body's natural patterns are reciprocal. Runners and marchers naturally advance the right hand and left foot simultaneously and vice-versa. If you hold your cane on the same side as your weak or injured leg, you are fighting the body's normal coordination patterns and could more easily become unbalanced and stumble. The safest method to use a cane is to advance it along with the opposite foot in a smooth pattern.

Ronna Sather is a licensed physical therapist with over 30 years of professional experience, assisting and guiding thousands of families dealing with the safety and independence of elderly loved ones at home. You can visit her website at to find more articles, resources and carefully researched products which promote senior safety and make life easier in the home environment. Just sign up for the free newsletter and you will receive a free handy checklist for senior safety at home!

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