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As people get older, the likelihood of needing a mobility device like a cane or a walker will increase. In fact, today roughly one in four adults, aged 65 or over, uses one of these devices to help improve mobility.
But there is a big difference between using a cane and using a walker. Each offers its own advantages and disadvantages, so knowing what is required of each and how they can affect your mobility is important before making your decision on which to use. Of course, the guidance of your medical professional should always guide your decision making with regard to any mobility product.
In this post, we will provide you with tips for what to keep in mind when choosing the best mobility aid for your needs.
Each mobility aid is unique, and there is no shortage of options for you to consider. So, it is important to keep in mind some of the unique factors of each.
For instance, walkers require strength and energy to use. This is because the upper body muscles are responsible for picking up and moving the walker. As a result, while this type of mobility device provides excellent stability, isn’t typically the best choice for someone diagnosed with conditions like congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, because they may become winded easily, which could actually lead to a reduction in the user’s activity.
In the case of typical walkers with wheels, using one safely requires the user to exhibit a certain level of balance. Therefore, people with balance disorders shouldn’t use this type of walker because it could reasonably increase their chances of falling.
With a cane, to provide the user with the proper support, its essential that the cane be the right height. Choosing a fixed height cane that is too short or too tall, or improperly setting the height on a height adjustable cane. won’t provide the user with the stability they need and can lead to accidental falls or further injuries.
Most people who require mobility devices tend to suffer from mobility problems that fall into one or more of the following categories:
Whether you choose a cane or walker ultimately depends on the recommendation of your medical professional based on how much support you need and whether you need it for one or both limbs.
For instance, if you have mild leg weakness or a “bad knee,” then a cane will likely give you the one-sided support you need by reducing the weight on the joints in the affected leg. A cane is also an ideal choice for people dealing with mild sensory changes, such as changes in vision, hearing, or balance. For these types of users, a cane will help them determine where the floor is by feeling it through the arm holding the cane. This is known as proprioception.
Alternatively, if your balance is very poor, or if you have weakness or arthritic pain that affects both legs or hips, then you're more likely to be a candidate for a walker because it provides a much larger base of support.
With this device, the type of walker you choose is determined by your upper extremity strength and ability, as well as the location where you will be using it in, and personal preference. The traditional walker (without wheels) is not as popular as it once was because this model needs to be picked up and moved forward. Today, the most used walkers are those with either two, three, or four wheels, including similar products called rollators.
While most pharmacy chains and medical supply stores sell canes and walkers that you can buy off the shelf, those with serious mobility problems should be assessed by a medical professional, like a physical therapist or rehabilitation doctor, to ensure they choose the right aid for their unique needs.
A physical therapist cab assess your gait and use that information to help you choose the walking aid that will give you the appropriate level of support. They will also ensure that your device is sized properly and teach you how to use it correctly, so you can enjoy maximum mobility with the greatest amount of comfort.
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