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How to Use a Cane for the Best Safety and Support

Using a cane doesn’t always come naturally

Knowing how to use a cane correctly isn’t as obvious as it seems.

Many seniors use canes to improve balance, get support, and reduce their fall risk.

But using one incorrectly can increase the risk of falling.

To supplement instructions from your older adult’s doctor, nurse, or licensed physical therapist, we found an excellent video from a doctor of physical therapy with step-by-step demonstrations on how to use a cane correctly.

Using the correct technique keeps your older adult safe and helps them get the most benefit from their cane.

The video also includes helpful advice about choosing the right cane for your older adult’s needs, signs that indicate a cane is needed, and why a cane helps prevent falls.


Using canes incorrectly can cause pain or falls

If a cane is used incorrectly, it can show as an obvious limp.

It’s important to know that canes are often used incorrectly on popular TV shows. They probably do it to make things more dramatic, but it’s misleading and sets a bad example.

As an example, Dr. House, from the popular TV show House, incorrectly holds the cane on his weak right side and leans heavily on it when he walks, obviously limping. You can see an example of his behavior around the 15 second mark in this video clip.

Those types of unnatural motions can cause added pain or injury from poor posture or unsafe movements.

It can also cause falls because the person’s weight isn’t evenly distributed and the cane or their hand is more likely to slip.

Helpful brief video shows how to use a cane correctly

Dr. Jo, a doctor of physical therapy, created a brief 7 minute video that shows exactly how to walk with a properly fitted cane.

Her energy and enthusiasm make this video both informative and fun!

6 top tips from Dr. Jo’s video

  1. The top of the cane should hit at the top of the hipbone

  2. When standing straight and holding the handle, there should be a slight bend in the elbow.

  3. Always hold the cane in the hand opposite the weaker side

  4. The cane moves forward together with the weaker leg.

  5. Walking with a cane should look a lot like walking normally.

  6. There are two walking patterns: step through vs. step to.

As Dr. Jo says at the end of the video, if your older adult isn’t walking normally, seems weak, or is off-balance, those are signs that they may need to start using a cane.

Because if they don’t use any support and they fall, they’re going to end up needing much more than just a cane.

But having a cane isn’t enough! It’s just as important to make sure the cane is the right height and being used correctly!

Additional images illustrate how to use a cane correctly

Here are a few more images that illustrate Dr. Jo’s recommendations.

Notice that the cane is held on the strong side of the body and that it moves together with the weaker leg.

Position the cane tip next to the stronger side

When walking, the cane moves together with the weaker leg

When walking, the cane moves together with the weaker leg

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team Images: Pioneer Emergency Response Services, UPMC, Harvard Medical School

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