How To Use A Walking Cane

Canes are valuable assistive devices for a wide range of people, including those with walking abnormalities, those who have a high risk of falling, and those who have issues with balance, pain, or weakness, especially to the hips, knees, or feet. Canes are also used to help patients maneuver with more stability when recovering from surgery or a stroke.

For so many people, a walking cane makes it possible for them to live independently while remaining active and mobile. But if this is your first time being prescribed a cane, you first need to learn how to use a walking cane properly before you can achieve that type of result.

This guide will help you learn how to walk with a walking cane safely and effectively.

Beginner’s Tips – How to Walk With a Cane for the First Time

man holding cane

If this is your first time using a cane, follow these four steps to help make it as comfortable as possible while you get accustomed to using it.

  1. Hold your cane in the hand that’s opposite the side that needs support
  2. Position the cane so it is slightly to the side of your hip and about two inches in front of your body
  3. Move the cane forward at the same time as you step forward with your affected leg
  4. After the cane lands on the ground, hold it steady in place as you walk forward with your unaffected leg

If you need assistance, ask someone to supervise you or help stabilize you when you’re walking with your cane for the first time. You want to feel comfortable and fully confident using your cane before going out on your own.

How to Use a Cane on Stairs

Walking on a flat, level surface is one thing for a new cane user, but when you need to use the stairs or step up on a curb, you need to use extra care because this can take a little getting used to. Here is the proper way to use a cane when you are walking up or downstairs.

Walking Up the Stairs

  1. Hold onto the handrail for extra support using the hand that is not holding the cane
  2. Step up with your unaffected leg first
  3. Then, step up at the same time with your affected leg and cane

Walking Down the Stairs

  1. Hold onto the handrail for extra support using the hand that is not holding the cane
  2. Put your cane on the lower step
  3. Step your affected leg onto the lower step
  4. Then, step your unaffected leg onto the lower step 

Additional Safety Tips When Walking With Your Cane

close up of shoes while walking with a cane

The following tips can help you improve your safety and comfort while you are learning how to use a walking cane.

  • Keep your gaze straight ahead of you instead of looking down
  • Make sure your cane is completely stable before you start walking forward
  • Be careful you don’t place your cane too far forward or it could slip
  • Keep the walkways in your home clear of obstructions and trip hazards, like electrical cords, clutter, furniture, or slippery rugs
  • Be mindful of pets and children when walking 
  • Ensure that the walkways in your home are well-lit, especially at night
  • Use additional safety devices in your bathroom to add stability where needed, like nonslip bathmats, a shower tub seat, safety bars, or a raised toilet 
  • Organize your living space so the items you regularly need are easy to reach
  • When venturing outside with your cane, use a backpack, fanny pack, or cross-body bag, so your non-cane using hand can be free at all times

Learning how to walk with a cane safely and comfortably can take some getting used to, so don’t get frustrated or impatient. This is an important step in you becoming more mobile and independent, so you need to do it correctly. Before long, you will find the added support and stability provided by your cane to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and enables you to maintain an independent and active life. 

If you need a more hands-on approach to learning how to use your cane, speak to a physical or occupational therapist. Your physical or occupational therapist can also teach you exercises that can help improve your body’s strength, balance, and stability.

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