Walking sticks aren’t just for elderly people. They’re commonly used for injury support, assisting with strength and balancing issues due to illness and easing pain over long distances.
Realising you need additional support when you’re exercising or going about your day-to-day life isn’t something to be ashamed of. If anything, using a walking stick can dramatically increase your quality of life and open many doors, both physically and mentally.
However, picking the right walking stick for you and using it safely is more complicated than people think. Here, you'll find everything you need to get started.
How To Pick the Right Walking Stick
There are a few things you’ll need to consider when picking a walking stick. For example, a person’s height, weight, and body composition play a role in finding a cane that is ergonomically suitable.
Durable, lightweight walking sticks made of aluminium, for example, offer more sturdy support than wooden or fold-up sticks – making them the better options for those that need greater assistance.
Make sure it’s the right height. When your arms are relaxed, the top of the stick should be in-line with your wrist. This takes unnecessary pressure off your shoulders, arms and wrists and helps balance posture to prevent back pain.
If you’re still unsure or struggling with correct sizing, speak to your doctor or physician, who can help you get the right fit for you.
The choice of grip is important for both safety and comfort when it comes to your walking stick. Having a grip that’s too thin or not moulded to your hand shape increases the chances of it slipping and causing injury. T-shaped, crooked, or swan-head grips are designed to provide a naturally ergonomic grip.
For additional balance, consider changing the base of the stick. Known as the ferrule, this rubber covering on the bottom of the cane can be substituted with other fittings like wider bases and 4-pronged fixtures for extra stability.
How To Walk with A Walking Stick
Walking with a walking stick is straightforward. However, getting correctly set up is paramount to preventing discomfort or injury.
Contrary to popular belief, you should walk with your stick on the opposite side to your injured leg. So, if you need additional support on your left leg, you should hold your walking stick on the right side of your body and vice versa.
This helps take the weight off the affected leg and redistribute the burden to your healthy or more able leg. This also reduces the risk of further injury by keeping you more stable on your feet.
Proper technique is also needed to prevent injuries elsewhere on the body. Your stick should be moving in time with your injured leg. As your injured foot returns to the ground in stride, the cane should meet the floor simultaneously to bear the force of your body weight and prevent further injury.
How To Use a Walking Stick for Hip and Knee pain
For hip and knee pain, support is everything. Distribute your weight evenly by keeping the walking stick on the opposite side of your affected leg.
However, the best method for using your walking stick will depend on the reason for using the aid. Doctors will recommend different assistive devices based on the type of injury – like walking sticks, walkers, or crutches – so ask your doctor what they think is best.
How To Use A Walking Stick On Stairs
Part of learning how to properly use a walking stick is navigating day-to-day obstacles like stairs.
When climbing stairs, you should:
- · Make sure your walking stick is on the opposite side of the affected leg for balance, and let the healthier leg lead the way onto the first step
- · Follow onto the next step with your injured leg and the cane – remember to move them in tandem for additional support and repeat
- · Use the handrail for additional support if needed
When you’re coming down the stairs, be sure to:
- · Place the cane on the step below you
- · Move your weaker leg to the same platform – using the walking stick to support most of your body weight
- · Step onto that same step with your healthier leg and repeat – taking the stairs one at a time
- · Use the handrail for additional support and stability
- · Remember to take it slowly
How To Walk with Two Walking Sticks
It’s not uncommon for people to use two walking sticks. Using two walking sticks instead of one can help people navigate uneven terrain and distribute body weight evenly across two contact points.
When you’re walking with two sticks, you should move them in tandem with your injured leg – as you would use a pair of crutches. The upper body bears the weight of the force exerted on the weaker leg and helps spread the weight evenly across the back and shoulders to avoid discomfort.
Cautions and key considerations when using a walking stick
When using walking sticks, crutches, or walkers, you need to exercise more caution to avoid making injuries or weaknesses worse – or even picking up new ones.
Be sure to clear any tripping hazards around the home, like stray wires on the floor or items on the staircase. These can easily snag on your sticks and throw you off balance.
When you’re out, be mindful and take care of smooth-tiled or wooden floor areas or wet surfaces, crushed leaves, moss or drain covers. These surfaces pose a serious slip hazard. And because you’re placing the majority of your body weight on the walking stick, even the slightest slip can result in a serious accident and significant injury.
Bear in mind the grip levels of your stick. The tip of the stick will become ground down over time due to friction, reducing its effectiveness. Ferrules last 6 months on average, so keep an eye on the grip levels in case you need to replace them.
Additional tips for using a walking stick
There’s no single way to use mobility devices. Aches, pains and injuries can happen in all sorts of areas, so there’s no right way to use a walking stick – do what is comfortable for you.
If you’re thinking about reducing your reliance on a walking stick, only do so when the pain has completely subsided or when recommended by your doctor. This will reduce the chance of recurring injury.
Talk to your doctor before getting your own walking stick. They’re better suited to run you through which grip, material, and length you’ll need to best suit your body composition. They’ll also be able to recommend more suitable mobility support devices for your needs. If you’re looking for mobility aids to assist with muscle or joint pain, click here and browse StressNoMore’s selection today