Using a Cane 101

(In response to a question about how to use a cane posted on the Braintalk multiple sclerosis forum):

Use a cane opposite the affected side. When you stand straight with your arms hanging at your sides, the top of the cane should come to the crease of your wrist, no higher. If it’s too tall, cut it down (remember to account for the height of the rubber tip).

The shape of the handle matters; a classic curved handle is very hard on the hand. A straight handle distributes the weight better and is easier on your hand.

If it is an old cane, go out immediately to your drugstore and get a new rubber tip for it – they came in various diameters. Replace the tip whenever it starts to wear through.

When walking, swing the cane forward with your bad leg. When going up stairs, lead with the strong leg, do the opposite when going down (remember:up with the good, down with the bad). Hold onto the railing.

An easy way to keep your cane from falling over when you set it down briefly is to turn it upside down and put the handle on the floor and the rubber tip against the wall – if you do it the other way around it will almost always fall down.

If your elbow hurts when using a cane then you are probably using it for weight-bearing (to take weight off a weak leg) rather than balance, or the cane is too tall.

A cane is a poor tool for weight-bearing. Forearm crutches work better, are more stable, stay with you when you take your hand off the grip, and keep you from getting lopsided.

A lightweight manual wheelchair is a completely different item from the depot wheelchairs that you see in hospitals and shopping malls, so even if you have trouble with a depot wheelchair, a lightweight might be fine. There are lots of ways to carry things when using a wheelchair – I have bags that go on the back, a bag that clips under the seat, a mesh shelf-thingie that goes under the seat, etc.


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