Have you noticed that you are struggling to walk with proper mechanics, or feeling any lingering pain in your joints?
Does standing still cause sharp pains in your knees and hips?
These are just a few of the reasons you may need to start using a cane. Walking canes may not be groundbreaking technology, but they are dependable and helpful - more than 15% of all seniors use one. If you’ve been wondering “when do you know it is time for a walking cane?”, read our 8 helpful tips below!
Types of Walking Canes
These canes are the least expensive and most common example of a cane. C canes were the most common type of cane around until very recently. The classic wooden cane with a “C”-shaped handle provides a decent amount of stability for a very low price. These canes also allow you to move faster than heavier quad canes and walkers.
Quad Walking Cane
Quad canes are known less for their grip/handle than they are for their base. At the bottom of the cane, four small legs with rubber feet spread out to provide excellent balance and stability. These canes are very popular with people who have light-moderate mobility and balance issues because they’re much harder to tip over.
Ergonomic Grip Cane
If you’re someone who needs their cane for balance to avoid a fall or puts a lot of weight on their cane, a product with an ergonomic grip is perfect for you. Ergonomic grips are softer, designed to fit the shape of your hand, and are easier to grab onto at a moment’s notice for balance. These canes may or may not have quad designs on the bottom, too, making them ideal choices for most seniors.
Signs You Need to Use a Walking Cane
1. You Have Abnormal Gait
If you have a limp or drag one of your feet, you need to consider getting a cane right away. When you develop an abnormal walking gait, it’s a sign that your body is trying to respond to an injury or problem area in your legs or spine. As a result of these adjustments, you can develop more problems such as back pain.
For example, a limp that arises from your left knee puts extra pressure on your right leg - in the hip, knee, and ankle. Over time, that small limp can develop into a major problem. Getting a cane to help fix your walking gait is a cheap and effective way to accommodate minor issues before they turn serious.
2. You Have Trouble Balancing
Canes are ideal for people with balance issues. No matter where those issues come from, whether it be a fall or injury, a medical condition, or a lack of muscular strength, a good cane will be there to keep you upright.
3. You Have Had a Stroke or Mini-Stroke
Strokes and mini-strokes cause numbness and weakness in your limbs, leading to poor balance and an increased risk of falls. If you or a loved one has recently had one of these medical events, getting a cane for balance and stability is an excellent and sometimes necessary step to take. They are recommended for stroke patients to safely achieve normal walking motions.
4. You Have an Overreliance on One Foot
Next time you’re standing still for more than a few minutes, pay attention to the way that you stand. Are you heavily relying on one foot to avoid pain in one of your joints? This is something many people do subconsciously, and it’s a sign that a cane might be a good idea. They can help you avoid overreliance on one foot and instead balance your weight when standing more appropriately.
5. You Have a Bad Back
Back pain can be caused by poor walking gait. If you’ve got sciatica or other lower back issues, the way you walk and stand may be to blame. Getting a cane takes the pressure off of your legs and your spine, preventing tightness and pain.
6. You Have Chronic Joint Pain
If you consistently experience pain in your knees and ankles while walking, you may benefit from some assistance in the form of a cane. The cane will reduce the load your joints are bearing, helping you walk further with less pain!
7. You Consistently Rely on Handrails/Supports
This is a tell-tale sign that you need support. The more you are leaning on furniture and railings, the more obvious your need for a cane is. If your leg/back issues make it hard to stand or walk without support, you are the exact type of person that canes are developed for!
8. You Have Arthritis in Your Legs or Back
Osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees, causes tremendous pain and stiffness. If you have this condition, a cane can keep your knees and joints feeling looser and more pain-free. Canes used by people with knee osteoarthritis can benefit greatly with improved gait and posture, as well as reduced disease progression.
Pros and Cons of Using a Walking Cane
Does Medicare Cover Walking Canes?
Medicare Part B covers items that fall into a category called “Durable Medical Equipment” (DME). Medicare will pay 80% of the cost of the item; the other 20% will be paid out of pocket or by supplemental coverage. In order to be classified as DME, an item must:
In most cases, canes will qualify as DME- if you have a doctor’s prescription, that is. If you don’t have the prescription, you can either make an appointment to get one, or simply pay for the cane out of pocket. Because most canes are rather inexpensive, paying full price is typically doable (albeit not preferable).
Tips for Buying the Best Walking Cane for Your Needs
Using a cane may not be the most exciting prospect, but it can be very beneficial. If you identify with any of the seven signs that you need a walking cane, we recommend you start browsing for the cane that fits you sooner rather than later. Have any questions about knowing when it’s time to use a walking cane? Leave them in the comments section below!