COVID-19 Resources: Keeping you safe | Vaccine Information | Visitor Policy and Hours
View All Services
Find a New Primary Care Provider
Search by Specialty
View All Locations
Discover classes, events, tours, and groups that fit your interests.
Home > Be Healthy > Health Library > Using a Cane
A walking aid—a walker, crutches, or a cane—helps substitute for a decrease in strength, range of motion, joint stability, coordination, or endurance. It can also reduce the stress on a painful joint or limb. Using a walking aid can help you be more safe and independent in your daily activities.
Almost everyone has used a walking aid at some time, even if it was just playing around with crutches that belonged to someone else. As a result, most people think they know how to use this equipment. But there are some simple principles that will make using your walking aid easier and safer.
If you are using a cane because one leg is weak or painful, hold the cane on the opposite side from the weak or painful leg. For example, if your right hip is sore, hold the cane in your left hand.
If you are using the cane for a little help with balance and stability, hold it in the hand you use less. If you are right-handed, you'll probably want to hold the cane in your left hand to leave your right hand free for other things.
Hold the cane close to your body so you can push straight down on it. If you feel as though you need to put a lot of weight on the cane because your balance is not good or you have significant pain or weakness, talk to your doctor about trying crutches or a walker.
Be sure your cane fits you. When you stand up in your normal posture with the cane tip on the ground, the handle of the cane should be next to the top of your leg. Your elbow should be slightly bent.
A cane can help if you have minor problems with balance or steadiness on your feet. It can also help take a little weight off one leg by shifting some weight to the cane. Your doctor may recommend a cane if you just need a little help walking comfortably and safely.
The best way to think about walking with a cane is that you are taking normal steps and just moving the cane when you would normally swing your arm forward.
Move the cane at the same time as the opposite leg, just as though you were swinging your arm. For example, if you are holding the cane in your left hand, move the cane forward when you step with your right foot. If you are using the cane because of a painful or weak leg, you will be moving that leg at the same time as the cane.
Try this first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.
If a banister is available, hold on to the banister, and use your cane in the opposite hand. You will still step with the stronger leg first to go up stairs, and with the weaker leg first to go down stairs.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJoan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.