Choosing a Cane Shouldn’t be a Walk in the Dark

If we were to make a list of the 100 greatest medical inventions in human history, canes would have to be on it. Despite its basic design, this mobility aid has remained virtually the same throughout the centuries. From biblical times to the social media age, canes have helped seniors, the injured, and those with mild balance problems remain on-the-go and performing everyday routines with great ease.

At some point, you or a loved one might be required to use a cane for any number of medical reasons. When this happens, you need to know how to choose the most appropriate one to best suit your unique needs. The design of canes may be similar to each other, but there are small differences in each type that make some canes better choices than others. Here’s what you need to know:

Get a Grip

The grip is usually a matter of personal preference of the user. However, the correct grip will also prevent unnecessary strain on your hand, wrist and forearm. It becomes apparent that you haven’t chosen the right cane grip when you feel numbness or pain in your hands and fingers after prolonged use. Consider choosing a foam grip that is shaped to fit the contour of your hand for best comfort and ergonomic feel.

If you have arthritis or other joint pains on your fingers, you may want to consider a larger grip. While bigger, they provide more surface area, which makes it less difficult to hold onto the cane. As always, you should involve your physical therapist or a medical equipment expert to help you choose the best cane for your specific situation.

How Do I Make Sure It Fits Me?

It’s important that your cane be just the right length for your height. If it’s too long, you’ll find yourself having to work harder to hold and move with it. If it’s too short, you’ll likely list to one side or the other, which will make you off-balance. And while many of today’s canes are adjustable to accommodate the user’s height, not all of them offer that adaptability.

Using a simple tape measure, it will be easy to determine the appropriate cane length you will need to assure the perfect height that best suits you. Letting your arm hang loosely and straight down to your side, have someone measure the distance from the crease in your wrist to the floor. This measurement should be the ideal length for you, and roughly equal to the distance from the palm of your hand to the floor if you were to comfortable bend your elbow at an optimal 15 to 20 degree angle as if you were holding your cane. Be sure that you’re wearing shoes that you typically use at the time your measurement is recorded. You may be surprised how much a simple pair of sneakers can add to your overall height.

Tips on Tips

Canes come in all sorts of styles when the “rubber hits the road” these days. It’s important to know that single point canes offer assistance with early or minor balance issues. While three- to four-point “quad” canes add greater stability and offer even more balance for those who have more trouble with walking, overall strength issues in the lower extremities, or may be recovering from a stroke.

Make sure that your cane has a pliable non-skid rubber tip with treads to ensure better traction. While materials used for tips are extremely durable, all tips wear out over time. Be sure that you inspect your tips like you would a set of tires on your car, and immediately replace them to prevent slips and slides once the tread is worn. You can easily order replacements from your medical supply store.

Material Things

Wood, aluminum and composite materials are the most common construction for canes today—aluminum and composite offering the lightest, yet durable option. Regardless of the material, canes are typically made for every day use inside and outside of the home. The primary advantage of aluminum canes is that many models are typically adjustable height or collapsible, making them easier to transport.

If you’re looking to make a statement with your new cane, you’ll want to also consider that aluminum and composite models are typically available in a wide range of colors and design finishes to suit just about every personality. While wood canes generally offer a more “classic” or formal look. Selecting the right material of your cane really comes down to personal preference more than anything.

Cane, Walker or Rollator?

As with any product designed to help you with mobility or fall-prevention, it’s a good idea to consult your physical or occupational therapist so they can help determine if a cane will provide the optimal assistance for you. Generally, you can expect to support up to 25% of your weight with a cane. If you have a need to support any more than that, or if you require greater balance assistance, you may instead need to consider a walker or rollator, which offer additional balance and greater fall-prevention.

A cane shouldn’t be anything you’re ashamed of using. It only means that you are smartly informed, care about your body, and that you aren’t going to let minor mobility challenges keep you from an active lifestyle. This list should help you narrow down your options and, along with the help of your healthcare provider,  make the most informed decision finding the right cane for you.

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Contributor Byline

Zane Lewis is a former caregiver himself, having served as the primary in-home caregiver for his mother during her remaining twilight years. He is the owner of NewLeaf Home Medical, a national online medical products and supplies retailer devoted to helping customers best meet the care needs for their loved ones.

 

Image courtesy of [stockimages] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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