Using a cane | Zehr Center for Orthopaedics in Naples, Florida offers tips on using a cane

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Using a cane

Man using a cane while walking dogUsing a cane is one approach to relieving joint paint from osteoarthritis. If your osteoarthritis is starting to cause more pain and stiffness in your hips and knees, using a cane might give you some relief. A cane helps take some of the strain of walking and standing off the weight-bearing joints. Many people only need to use their canes during flare-ups.

To measure yourself for a cane, stand upright, allowing your arms to relax at your side, with a normal bend in the elbow. Have someone measure the distance from your wrist joint to the floor. The number is the right length of cane for you. You can also estimate the proper cane length by dividing your height by two. For most people, the right sized cane is within one inch of half their height.

When you are looking for a cane, choose one with a handle that feels comfortable in your hand. To size a cane, hold it by the handle, keeping your hand by your upper thigh with your elbow bent slightly. The tip of the cane should touch the ground about six inches in front and to the side of your foot.

When you are using a cane, carry it on the opposite side of your sore joint. For example, if your right knee hurts, hold the cane in your left hand. When you take a step with your affected leg, move the cane forward. This allows you to put more weight on the cane and less on your sore knee or hip. Only move the cane the distance of an average step. You don’t want to be stretching to catch up to the cane. Nor do you want to be overstepping the cane.

To climb steps while using a cane, always remember “up with the good.” While holding the rail with one hand, advance your stronger leg first, placing it on the step above where you are standing. Then bring your weaker leg up to meet it. If there is no rail to hold onto, place the cane on the upper step at the same time, or after, you move your weaker leg.

When using a cane to descend steps, it is “down with the bad.” Reverse the process described above, leading your descent with your weaker leg. If there is no rail to hold onto, place the cane on the lower step at the same time or after you move your stronger leg.

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