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Canes for Pain: How to Properly Use a Cane to Relieve Pain

By jwilder

Canes for Pain

A simple walking cane might not seem like a great tool for relieving pain, but they’re more effective than you might think.

Whether you’ve got knee osteoarthritis, have had a hip replacement, or suffer from lower back pain, a well-utilized walking cane can bring tremendous relief. Read on to learn how to use canes for pain in all sorts of places!

How to Use a Cane With Back Pain

Will a Cane Help With Back Pain?

Using a cane may not help with all kinds of back pain, but it can be extremely effective for any back pain related to your legs and hips - specifically sciatica. Sciatica is a sharp pain, starting in your lumbar area and spreading down one leg, caused by undue pressure and stress on the sciatic nerve. This pain will usually go away after treatment, and a properly-used cane can be a great part of that treatment.

Should I Use a Cane for Back Pain?

The answer to this question is entirely dependent on the type of back pain you have.

If you have sciatica or any other type of lower back pain, it’s possible that poor walking gait is responsible. If this is the case, using a cane to treat back pain is almost always a good idea. Of course, only a visit to your doctor can truly confirm this, so you should seek their advice if you aren’t sure whether a cane is a good way to treat your pain.

Beyond that, a cane should not be the only thing you implement to treat back pain. A good heating pad or massage cushion, as well as regular stretching, can work wonders on lower back pain. So, use a cane if you think it will help, but don’t think that a cane alone will solve all of your problems!

How to Use a Cane for Lower Back Pain

Sciatica pain is often concentrated on one leg/one side of the lower back. If your pain is stronger on one side, treat that side as if it were the one with an injured leg and hold your cane in the hand opposite. As you walk, put as much weight as you can onto the cane. This will reduce the strain placed on your lower back and sciatic nerve, allowing them to decompress. Over time, this should lead to reduced and possibly even nonexistent back pain.

It’s important when using a cane to treat back pain that you focus on walking with proper gait. Relieving pressure with a cane is helpful, but the benefits of using a cane for lower back pain are maximized when proper walking mechanics are emphasized.

If you want to learn more about how to walk properly, check out this helpful video, and our guide to proper cane use!

Using a Cane for Hip Pain

Does Walking With a Cane Help Hip Pain?

Yes! Particularly in the context of hip surgery and replacement, using a cane is very much encouraged to help reduce hip pain.

In one study, the use of a cane was found to contribute to reduced pressure on the replaced hip, helping aid the recovery process. If you’ve had a recent fall/surgery that affected your hip, or had an entire hip replacement, grabbing a high-quality, well-fitting cane is a must.

Canes considerably reduce the load that your hips are required to carry. This makes walking less demanding on the hips and results in less pain. If your hips are sore and stiff after walking, using a cane can keep them feeling good all day long.

How to Use a Cane for Hip Pain

The most important thing you can do for hip pain is to reduce the load on your hip abductors. Doing this will decrease your pain and let your hip move more naturally. Here are the basic principles of using a cane to help with hip pain:

  • Hold the cane in the hand opposite your bad hip. If your right hip is where the trouble is, hold the cane in your left hand.
  • As you walk, move the cane following the natural swinging motion of your arms.
  • Don’t put the cane too far in front of you, rather, make sure it is parallel to your foot so that you keep your balance.
  • Place as much weight on the cane as you can while you step so that you can move your bad hip in a healthy way without demanding too much of it.

Walking With a Cane for Knee Pain

Does a Cane Help With Knee Pain?

Cane use is very helpful for people with a variety of knee issues but especially for seniors who suffer from knee osteoarthritis. Clinical research has proven that walking canes directly contribute to reduced pain and increased function in the knee among virtually all knee osteoarthritis patients- it can even slow the progression of the disease.

The reason that cane use is so effective for treating knee pain is that it solves two of the leading causes of knee pain at once. The first is the most obvious: canes take the load off of your knee. This prevents swelling and pain from getting out of hand while walking.

Canes also promote a healthier gait; issues with proper walking mechanics are a major contributor to knee pain. If you suffer from chronic knee pain, unexplained by injury or lack of cartilage, you may need to correct your walking form. Using a cane either temporarily or permanently is a great way for seniors to make sure they are walking properly and healthily.

How to Use a Cane for Knee Pain

Just as you would with other injuries, hold the cane in the hand that is opposite your bad leg. You may be tempted to hold it on the same side, but this will lead to a “hobbling” motion instead of natural, healthy walking.


Using a cane to relieve pain is one of the cheapest and most effective methods around. As long as you make sure that you understand how to properly use the cane, you can effectively reduce the amount of pain you feel while simultaneously re-teaching your body how to walk in a healthy manner. Have you had experience using a cane for this purpose in the past? Do you have any questions about the correct way to use a cane? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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