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How to Use a Cane

Photo of a caneWhat is a cane? A cane is a stick used to give you support and balance when walking. Most canes are made of metal, wood, or plastic.

Why do I need to use a cane? You may need to use a cane if you are weak on one side of your body or if you have balance problems. The cane may decrease your pain when walking because it takes weight off your leg and joints. Using a cane may help you feel less tired.

What kind of cane should I use? There are many kinds of canes. A cane can be made longer or shorter to fit your height. The end of the cane should have a non-skid rubber tip to prevent slipping. You can buy a cane at a drug store or medical supply store. Following are three kinds of canes:

  • Standard cane: This type is usually made of wood or metal, may be 34 to 42 inches long and have a rounded crook handle. This cane is easy to use and is usually not very expensive. Try to get a cane that has a wooden or plastic handle instead of metal which can slip from your hand if your hand sweats. In cold weather, the metal handle may get too cold for you to touch.
  • Straight-handled cane: This type is also called a "T-handle" cane and is usually made of wood, plastic, or metal. You may need this type of cane if your hand is weak. Using a T-handle cane may help you be steadier when you walk. It is important that the height of the cane is correct for you.
  • Broad-based cane: This is a lightweight metal cane with three or four short legs. These legs give you a lot of support and allow the cane to stand-up when not in use. You may need this type if it is hard for you to keep your balance.

How do I use the cane? The following steps may help you learn to get in and out of a chair and to walk using a cane:

  • Using your cane to get into a chair:
    • Stand with the back of your legs against the chair seat
    • Rest the cane against the chair
    • Reach back with both hands to grip the chair arms
    • Put your weaker leg slightly off the floor
    • Put all your weight on your stronger leg
    • Slowly sit down and slide backwards into the chair
  • Using your cane to get out of a chair:
    • Hold your cane with your stronger hand
    • Grasp the arms of the chair
    • Put your stronger foot a little forward
    • Lean a little forward and push on the arms of the chair to raise yourself
    • Stand with your cane about 4 inches to the side of your stronger foot
    • Wait a few seconds to get used to standing before you start walking
  • Using your cane to walk:
    • Put the cane about 4 inches to the side of your stronger leg
    • Put weight on your stronger side
    • Move the cane about 4 inches in front of your stronger leg, bringing your weaker leg forward at the same time
    • Using the cane to help keep your weight off your weaker leg, move your stronger leg ahead 
    • Your heel will be a little beyond the tip of the cane
    • Repeat these steps and try to walk straight

Tips for using your cane safely:

  • Do not use your cane on stairs unless someone is with you
  • Wear shoes with rubber soles, such as tennis shoes. Slippers should not be worn because they can slide off your feet and cause a fall. Do not wear shoes with leather heels or soles that may slide and cause you to fall.
  • Check the floor to be sure it is safe for using the cane. The floor must be clean, dry, and well lit. Remove throw rugs to prevent falls. Tape or nail down loose carpet edges. Keep the traffic areas and the floor free of clutter.
  • Stand a few seconds before you start moving with your cane. This will get your body used to standing. Do not start walking if you are dizzy.
  • Look straight ahead when you are walking. You may run into or trip over something if you are looking at your feet.
  • To carry light things while using your cane, use a backpack or carry a bag. Do not try to carry heavy things.