Walking aids are an excellent resource but can be problematic or cause injury if used incorrectly. Sticks can be made of many materials- wood, metal, man-made or other. In fact I have seen several people who have carved their own stick. As sticks became more widely available and a fashion accessory, more and more people are seen with them. However, as an observer, I am acutely aware of how a high proportion of these users are in fact using this aid inappropriately. Some almost carry it, others bend forward with it as its too low and others lean to one side which in time will cause other medical issues such as hip pain.
Your muscles in your spine will try and compensate for this imbalance but eventually they will become mal-aligned. The concept of having a stick is to improve balance and generally they are light -weight, can be folded or another variation is a tripod. Sticks are to transfer weight to your wrist /or forearm and not to take your full body weight, although the tripod is designed to take more of your weight. There usually is a rubber covering at the bottom of the stick for stability purposes and the handles come in various designs but the one you need should be comfortable to grip and feel safe.
As I commented above, there is an issue with the length of sticks that some people are using. As a rule of thumb when you stand up tall with elbow slightly flexed, your stick should ideally be at the side of your wrist. Occupation therapists may indicate the stick needs to be around half your height in size but remember to take your shoe height into consideration.
Again, I observe people using the stick on the ‘affected’ side but it is designed to be used on the other side for balance and stability. However, if you are using the stick for support only and don’t have a weakness, then use it in your non-dominant hand and allow the weight to discharge into hand or down into the stick. Think about how we walk- we step forward with one foot and at the same time our arm on the opposite side has the same motion E.G. left foot forward, right arm swings forward or visa versa. This also allows the dominant hand to do other things! When walking with a weakness on one leg, it is important to place the stick in the opposite hand to go forward together. The stick takes the strain.
To attempt stairs or steps will obviously depend on what your issue is and how well you can use your affected leg. Do not attempt stairs or steps if you are not confident and have not been shown how to do this by a trained health professional. If the staircase/steps have a handrail please use it. You must be facing forward and not at an angle. Pop your stick in the other hand and move your good leg first, followed by the other. When you are coming down steps or stairs please use the handrail again and as above, pop your stick in the other hand. This time you move your affected leg first with the cane at the same time and follow on with the other leg. As I said earlier, the stick takes the strain. If the stairs or steps have no handrail keep your stick on the unaffected hand (the hand it is normally in) and lead with the cane, following with affected leg then the good leg.
If you do not feel confident going up and down steps it is advisable to have someone with you for support. Alternatively you can go up and down on your bottom but that obviously would depend on your injury. For those who like a stick as a ‘just in case something happens’ please don’t use it going up or downstairs as it could be dangerous. You can come downstairs facing the stairs holding onto a handrail for support.
All information in this article has been given in good faith and for general guidance only and in no way to overshadow any guidance from a trained health professional. Please follow their recommendations. If you need to use a stick please contact a Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist who can advise you. Alternatively, you can also use a search engine to look up ‘How to use a walking stick’. Safety is of major importance when using any equipment.
Susan May Lawrence
LLM(Health), LLB (Hons), RGN, RM, PN Cert, Dip CH, Senior Qualified Hypnotherapy Practitioner (GHSC), Dip Sports, PTSD Practitioner, Occupational Stress Consultant, Train the Trainer, Past Life Regression, & Future Life Progression, Hypno-Birthing/Fertility, NLP/Advanced EFT Practitioner, Smoking Cessation, Personal Development Coach, Reiki Master, Magnetism & Mesmerism Practitioner, Crystal Wand Facial Therapy Practitioner, Colour Therapist, Meditation Tutor, Lymphatic Drainage Massage, Ear Acupuncture Practitioner. OldPain2Go Practitioner, STEPS Practitioner & Trainer, EMDR (rapid eye movement therapy), Dreamscaper Trainer.
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