We give out canes like they’re candy.  But are we doing a good job adjusting the cane and teaching patients how to use them?  Canes that are not the right height for your patient or are being used incorrectly can put patients at an even greater risk of falls.


The proper height can be easily obtained by having the patient stand straight up with his or her arms at their side.  Place the base of the cane against the lateral aspect of the foot.  The correct height should place the top of the cane at the wrist.  Adjust up or down as needed.


When walking with the cane, the patient should hold it in the hand OPPOSITE to the affected side.  The cane should always move with the affected limb.  If you want to see an example of how NOT to walk with a cane, watch any episode of House.


When going DOWN stairs, lead with the affected limb.  When going UP stairs, lead with the good limb.  (“Down with the bad, up with the good.”)


Happy walking!


Here is a video for the visual learners:



For more on crutches, walkers and canes, click here:




Mel and BJ, physical therapists extraordinaire at Colonial Vista Physical Therapy in Wenatchee, WA.