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A therapy cane is a tool used by those who require assistance walking, keeping their balance, or decreasing the amount of weight placed on an injured leg or foot. It is essentially a sturdy stick with a handle; however, there are a few different types of canes. Patients should work with their physical therapists to select the appropriate type of therapy cane that suits their needs. A physical therapist can also help the patient learn how to walk and climb stairs with a cane.
Some general guidelines to follow when selecting a therapy cane include checking that it has a nonskid rubber base so that it can grip the floor and help avert falls. Patients should also ensure that they select the proper cane for their height. When the patient stands up straight, the top of the cane should reach the wrist. This allows the patient to bend his elbow slightly when using the cane for more comfortable support.
The basic type of therapy cane is a standard cane, which is one straight piece of metal or wood, with a curved handle at the top. Patients may also select a cane with a functional grip, which is a straight handle that is parallel to the ground. This type of handle may offer better gripping and more support. Plastic or wooden handles are recommended, because they are easier to grip.
Another type of therapy cane is the broad-based cane, also called a quad cane. This therapy cane has a base that consists of four short “legs,” which provides additional support and stability. Patients who have trouble keeping their balance may benefit from using a quad cane.
Caregivers should assess the patient's home to ensure it is suitable for walking around with a cane. Throw rugs should be removed, because the patient may trip on them. There should be plenty of room to move around amongst the furniture, and the floor should be free of clutter. It is recommended that the patient wear shoes with rubber soles whenever he uses the cane, ans should also look straight ahead of him while walking, rather than looking down at his feet.
To use a therapy cane, the patient should hold the device opposite his weaker side. For example, if his left foot is injured, he would hold the cane in his right hand. He should begin walking by moving the cane ahead of his body at the same time as his opposite, lower limb. The patient may then lean into the cane to support his weight while moving his other foot forward.
When climbing stairs, patients should hold onto the handrail with the hand that does not grasp the therapy cane. A cane should be placed on the next highest step, along with the stronger leg. The patient should then transfer his weight up to the stronger leg, before moving his weaker leg up. When walking down the stairs, the cane should move forward with the weaker leg first, and the patient's weight should be transferred last, along with his stronger leg.