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How to Properly Use a Cane


Being the smallest and the cheapest assistive device in the market today, it is no wonder that canes are popular.

This assistive device can easily be bought in a local drugstore and online as well.

Cane is beneficial in the following ways:
It helps redistribute weight from a lower extremity that is painful or weak.
It improves stability by increasing the base of support.
It provides tactile information about the ground to improve balance.
The traditional wooden cane and standard aluminum cane can support up to 25% of the user’s weight.
It has been associated with improved confidence and self-reported functional ability.


Without proper guidance though, this assistive technology can only do harm, rather than good.

Studies by Kaye et al. and Neil B. Alexander have shown that many cane users were not instructed on the correct use of their cane. These studies also showed that up to 70% of canes are damaged, faulty or the wrong height. A study by Bateni and Maki showed that as a result of lack of equipment guidance, 30 to 50% of patients stop using their assistive device soon after receiving it.

Here are the top guidelines on how to properly use a cane:

  1. Standard versus quad cane
    Dr. Robert Lam, in an article published in the Canadian Family Physician magazine, suggested that a standard cane (one tip) should be used for mild sensory or coordination problems. If substantial weight bearing is required, then a quad cane (with 4 tips) is recommended, this according to Dr. Lam.
  2. Which side to hold
    In an article published in the American Family Physician magazine, doctors Sara Bradley and Cameron Hernandez suggested that a cane should be held opposite to the painful or weak lower extremity.
  3. Correct height
    According to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), the cane is of the correct height, when you notice a 20 to 30-degree elbow bend once you hold the cane’s handle.

    To achieve this 20 to 30-degree elbow bend, the AGS suggests these steps:
    Use your most comfortable shoes.
    Allow your two arms to hang loosely on your side.
    Invite someone to measure the distance from your wrist to the floor and adjust the height accordingly.

  4. Correct usage
    For the proper use of this walking aid, the AGS suggests the following:
    Place all of your weight on your strong leg;
    Move the cane and your weak leg a comfortable distance forward;
    Put the cane firmly on the ground prior to taking a step; and
    Never put your cane too far ahead to prevent slipping.
  5. Tip protection
    The AGS also recommends that canes should be equipped with non-skid rubber tips. Worn tips should be replaced immediately to prevent skidding. Non-skid tips are available in your local medical supply store or local pharmacy.
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