What New Cane Users Need to Know

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Dick Clark once famously said “Well, I’m using a cane, so what? So what if they shot me sitting in a wheelchair? That’s life!”

Dick was right. Canes are a big part of many people’s lives and most people who use them know that canes can be a useful, portable and even fashionable way to access the activities that make us smile! Canes can provide the stability needed to safely participate in these activities that make life worth living. Whether a cane is a temporary or long term addition, used on it’s own, in conjunction with, or as a stepping stone to other mobility devices, there are some things you need to know to get the most out of life as a cane user! Read on for what you need to know.

Selecting the right cane for you

Canes can help redistribute weight from a weak or painful leg, improve stability by increasing the base of support and improve balance by providing the user information about the surface they are walking on. There are 3 types of canes available: quad canes, single-base canes and folding seat canes. To select the right one, it is important to factor in your individual needs, your environment and the activities you want to use it for. This article includes a basic overview of the different cane types to get you started; but for a more in depth assessment and recommendations based on your needs contact your primary care provider for a referral to occupational therapy!

Quad canes

If you need your cane to compensate for a weak or painful leg, quad canes provide the most stability. Within this category there are large-base quad canes, and small-base quad canes. Large-base quad canes, like this one from Medelco provide the greatest amount of stability, but are often heavy and cumbersome. They are best for navigating flat, open spaces, and for people who have the strength needed to lift and maneuver a heavier cane. Small-base quad canes, like the Vive Health LED Folding Cane have a smaller base of support, and are more agile and lighter. They can be used in smaller spaces and on some wider stairs and landings. More recently, companies have focused on producing quad canes with built in accessories like this one from ZNXY that has a fall detection alarm and FM Radio and MP3 playing capabilities.

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The cane is specially designed for the elderly, light and durable, telescopic and non-slip. Most importantly, it can give automatic alarm when the elderly fall. Also the FM radio and MP3 function make life richer for the elderly.

Single-base canes

Single-base canes are what most people think of as traditional walking canes. They are more agile, compact and lighter than their quad cane counterparts. They are best for people who have to navigate stairs, narrow hallways and small spaces. While any person using a cane needs to have some upper body, arm, shoulder and hand strength; single-base canes are ideal for those who have some pain/weakness in their upper extremities. They are also the least expensive cane option. Single-base canes come in all sorts of styles that range from traditional, simply functional canes like the Medline Offset Handle Cane to a statement pieces like the Harvy Cane Men’s Triple Twist Derby or the NeoWalk Tutti Fruitti.

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Folding-seat canes

Relatively new to the cane scene is the folding-seat cane. These canes are exactly what they sound like, canes that transform to seats! They are a great solution for people on the go, who need the occasional seated break. They come in two styles, tripod seats and sling seats. A tripod seat, like Drive Medical’s Deluxe Folding Cane Seat, allows two additional legs to unfold and support a sitting platform. Users must sit with the handle between their legs, so this is not the best option for people who like to cross their legs, or wear short skirts/dresses. Alternatively, sling seats, like Drive Medical’s Sling Style Seat provide a more comfortable fabric seat as well as a two pronged base while walking. Given their dual purpose, folding cane seats tend to be heavier than the other 2 cane types with the sling style being slightly heavier than the tripod.

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Provides a comfortable seat to rest on when open, and a sturdy support cane when closed.

How to properly fit your cane in 3 easy steps

Regardless of what cane type you choose, your cane must be properly fit to maximize its effectiveness, ensure user safety, and minimize the risk of strain injuries to other parts of your body.

  1. Stand with your arms relaxed at your side and cane beside you.
  1. Adjust the cane to the height of your wrist. Most adjustable canes do so by pressing the buttons towards the base of the cane.
  1. When holding the cane, there should be a slight bend in your elbow to about 20 degrees.

Tips for safe cane use

Use your cane on your strong side

One of the most common mistakes people make is using the cane on their affected/injured side. A cane is to be used on the unaffected side. While it may seem counterintuitive, this allows your cane to provide a wider base of support and shift your weight to your stronger side.

Lead with your cane and affected leg

To begin walking, shift your weight to your strong leg and step forward with your affected leg and cane. Place them down at the same time, then shift your weight to your cane and step your strong leg forward. Repeat. It takes a bit of practice, but gradually it will become second nature.

Up with the strong, down with the weak

When doing stairs remember “up with the strong, down with the weak”! To go up stairs, grab the handrail (when available) with your affected side’s hand, keeping your cane on your strong side. Shift your weight to your cane and lift your strong leg onto the first step. Shift your weight back onto your strong leg and lift yourself up. Place your affected leg and cane down together on the same step. Repeat.

Alternatively, when going down the stairs, lead with your affected leg and cane. Shift your weight to your strong leg and lower your affected leg and cane onto the first step. Then slowly shift your weight to your cane and bring your strong leg down to the same stair.

Important! Make sure to have a support person available to assist you until you are comfortable doing stairs. Also, use handrails, whenever possible, for additional support and stability.

Cane Accessories

There are tons of accessories available to add function and flair here are a few of our favourites: CaneWraps

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ErgoBracelet- Ergonomic Comfort Wrist Strap Bracelet (Attaches to 99% of Canes) The ErgoBracelet attaches to 99% of canes in the market. Its basically a lightweight ergonomic wrist strap bracelet that allows you to keep your cane at your side at all times. It allows users to use their hands without letting go of the cane or crutch device.

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Feel safe and secure navigating through winter’s ice and snow, or when walking across sand, gravel or soft grasses with the Vive cane ice tip attachment. Featuring a five-prong design that is constructed with durable carbon steel, the ice tips bite into the surface for greater traction and stability, while safely storing away for indoor use.

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This cane caddy holds your canes and crutches for easy access on your walker or wheelchair.

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The Life Mounts LED Wheelchair / Walker light features a powerful 300 lumen flashlight that operates on one AA battery, has 3 modes: high, low, and safety strobe and can bee seen for over 1,000 feet. The mount is made of durable silicone rubber, not brittle plastic like comparable products. It has a multi-position swivel and the secure Velcro straps adapt to any mounting location.

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This walking stick holder is made of soft and grippy material, that does not leave rubber marks. It’s waterproof and easy to use with wet hands.

Click over to evika.io for more canes, cane accessories and to learn about other assistive devices to help you live your life to the fullest!

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evika is an educational platform. We don’t sell anything!

We provide information that can help people with disabilities make decisions about what technology can help with their specific needs.

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