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Factors to Consider When Buying a Cane

A trip to your local drugstore will give you an idea how prevalent canes are.

These mobility assistive devices are popular because of their social acceptance, maneuverability and easy to use.

A study by Susan Allen showed that canes are low cost, versatile assistive devices that can reduce out-of-pocket expenses for supportive services.

But canes are not for everyone. Here are factors to consider when buying a cane:

  1. Balance versus weight bearing
    There are two major types of this device: the standard type (with single tip) and quad type (with four tips). When the device is needed for balance only, the standard type is the best fit. This type stabilizes the user’s gait by offering an additional contact point with the ground, thereby increasing the base of support. The Shepherd’s crook handled canes, in particular, are designed for patients who need additional assistance with balance.

    When the device is needed for weight bearing, then the quad type is the best fit. This tool allows force to be directly placed along the shaft of the cane. A study by Yocheved Laufer showed that the quad type provides stability for moderately involved hemiparetic patients during stance more than a standard type.

  2. Support needed
    This device can only support up to 25% of the user’s weight. To test this support level, ask someone to assist you when you walk. If a single hand helps you walk, then this tool fits. If you need two hands for balance or weight-bearing, some other device such as a walker fits.
  3. Material used
    There is the traditional wooden cane and there is the standard aluminum cane. The wooden type has an advantage especially in the looks department. However, the aluminum type tends to be extremely lightweight.
  4. Height
    The height of this tool depends on the user’s height. To achieve the correct height, follow these steps:
    • Use your most comfortable shoes.
    • Let your hands hang loosely on your sides.
    • Ask someone to measure the distance from the floor to your wrist. Adjust accordingly.
    • Hold the handle. If you notice a 20 to 30-degree bend of your elbow, then that is the appropriate height.

How to use

  • As a general rule, this tool is held on the side opposite the weak or painful leg. A study by Joyce and Kirby showed that this way of holding lessens the total force across the affected hip joint by nearly two thirds. The exemption to this rule is when this tool is mainly used for balance impairment. In this case, the user’s preference determines the hand in which the cane is held.
  • If the quad type is used, all four tips should be in contact with the ground when moving forward.
  • Do not put your cane too far ahead of you as this could slip from under you.
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