Walkers and Canes

Most elderly or infirm patients do not have the strength to use crutches safely. For them, a walker or cane is more suitable. Unfortunately, these devices are more appropriate for partial weight-bearing than for full non-weight-bearing conditions. Elderly patients who can bear no weight at all on an injured extremity may require initial bed rest and subsequent rehabilitation.

The technique for using a walker is essentially intuitive, with the patient simply lifting it and placing it a short distance ahead, then advancing up to it. By contrast, the technique for using a cane tends to be counterintuitive. Most patients instinctively hold a cane on the same side as the injured extremity. In fact, when the cane is held in the hand on the well side, much less strength is required to maintain balance, resulting in an easier and less awkward gait. The patient should be instructed to advance the cane (held on the well side) and the injured extremity simultaneously, then advance the noninjured extremity to meet them.

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