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How to Use a Cane and Walker

Many require the use of assistive devices (AD) as mobility aids. These devices allow a person to perform functional activities such as walking, transfers, and bed mobility. Proper use of an assistive device is necessary to enable that these activities are performed safely. As a physical therapist, I have seen many misuse these devices which can lead to further injury and falls. This blog will be focusing on the use of the walker and cane, which are the most commonly used assistive devices.



Mobility devices include:

· Canes (i.e. Single point, Quad, hurrycane)

· Walkers (i.e. Front wheeled, 4 wheeled, Hemiwalker, USTEP)

· Wheelchairs

· Treking poles

· Crutches

· Knee Scooters

Proper Fitting of AD

· Walkers and cane: Stand inside walker with arms at side or with cane at side. Hand grips should be at wrist level. When using walker or cane, elbows should be slightly bent (~15 degrees) with shoulders relaxed and down.

· Canes should be placed in the opposite hand of affected limb. (i.e. if you have an injured left knee the cane should be held with your right hand). This allows for better offloading of your affected limb with walking.


Sit to Stand Transfers

· When using 4WW, wheelchair (WC), and knee scooters ensure that the breaks are locked before attempting to stand or sit.


Sit to stand:

1. Sit at edge of the chair

2. Place one hand on chair and one hand on walker

3. Lean forward and push up into standing

Stand to sit:

1. Back up until knees are against the chair

2. Place both hands on chair to push up or place one hand on walker and one hand on chair.


Walking with Walker

1. Move the walker forward in front of you a short distance. Step forward with affected limb followed by nonaffected limb.

2. Remain within boundaries of walker.


Walking with a Cane

1. Cane should be placed in the hand opposite the affected limb.

2. Move cane forward a short distance and take a step with affected limb.

3. Take a step forward with unaffected limb.


Curbs and stairs

WalkerStep UP on a curb

1. Approach curb and place walker on curb

2. Step up with unaffected limb (up with the good leg)

3. Step up with affected limb


Walker- Step DOWN off a curb

1. Walk to edge of the curb

2. Place walker off the curb onto the ground

3. Step down with affected limb (down with the bad leg)

4. Step down with unaffected limb


Cane- Step UP on a curb/stairs

1. Use handrail if available

2. Step up with unaffected limb

3. Place cane up on step (up with good leg)

4. Step up with affected limb


Cane- Step DOWN off a curb/ stairs

1. Use handrail if available

2. Place cane on step

3. Step down with affected limb (down with bad leg)

4. Step down with unaffected limb



For further information on which AD is right for you, how to be properly fitted for an AD, or to check if you are using your AD correctly please contact Ascend Physical Therapy and reserve your 1:1 free consultation with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy.

Author: Genevieve Neely, PT, DPT


Dr. Genevieve Neely, PT, DPT received her Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Fullerton in Kinesiology graduating Magna Cum Laude. She received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from California State University, Long Beach receiving the Kishan Kooner scholarship for academics. She has clinical experience at various neurologic and orthopedic settings with a special interest in neurologic, vestibular, and balance disorders. Her treatment philosophy involves providing the utmost care that promotes healing. Each individual receives specialized treatments to reach their personal goals and maximize their overall quality of life. Genevieve is inspired by the positive impact that physical therapy can provide her patients and enjoys helping each patient reach their maximal function. Outside of work, she enjoys playing softball and spending time with her family and dog.

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