Walking sticks are one of the most common used mobility devices for older people, it is important that the correct product is chosen.
When in use, a walking stick can increase base of support and reduce strain on the legs and back. To use a walking stick, clients need to have sufficient hand and arm mobility, since the arms must partially support the body. If there is reduced balance or instability, or pain from a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, a walking stick may be enough to help compensate for this and provide support.
Most modern walking sticks are made of aluminium as it makes them lightweight and very durable. They also have height adjustability, using a telescopic design with a loaded spring to secure the stick at the desired height. Walking sticks are also available in a folding style with a variety of different patterns and colours.
Wooden walking sticks have been around for a long time and are both strong and durable; however they need to be cut to the specific height. They are not adjustable after being cut to length. If this is the type that you would prefer, it is recommended that the walking stick is cut and modified conservatively to achieve the optimum height.
There are a number of different handle styles – each with a different purpose.
Crook or Hook Style Handle: This is a more traditional style of walking stick handle, which is easy to hang over a chair or forearm when not in use. The handle can be difficult to grasp for clients with hand pain or discomfort. This type of walking stick is not ideal if a lot of weight is to be distributed on to the walking stick.
Standard T Handle: This is a common feature on folding walking sticks, and provides a comfortable handle. The shape of the grip allows the thumb to wrap around the front of the stick and the back of the grip allows the hand to rest on it.
Ergonomic Handle: This handle can reduce the pressure points on the hand by spreading the user’s weight across the palm. It is ideal for frequent use and users who place a lot of weight through the stick. It has a shape that is comparable to the palm of a hand. Ergonomic handles are offered in both left and right versions depending on which side is required. This is also called a Fischer Grip as it was developed by an Austrian man by the name of Dr Fischer.
Swan Neck: This term refers more to the design of the shaft rather than the handle itself. This shape means that it has an angled shaft which projects the handle forward. The design of this handle means that when the user puts weight through the handle grip, it goes straight down the cane shaft. This is in contrast to a T- Style handle which puts the weight of the user towards the back of the cane and can allow it to slip backwards when being used. The Swan Neck design is most beneficial to clients who tend to place more weight on the walking stick.
A quad cane is a type of cane that has four rubber capped feet at its base, which allows for extra support and stability. It can also be free standing which is often an advantage. This feature, however, means that quad cane walking sticks weigh more than standard walking sticks.
Folding canes are a great option for clients who always need a cane or are using it away from home and traveling. Simply collapse a folding cane and then unfold it when you arrive at your destination. Folding canes also pack easily in a suitcase or carry-on bag.
Getting the right height cane is really important as it will ensure the best possible stability and support. Whatever style of cane chosen; it is highly recommended that a professional properly measures and adjusts the product to suit. At the right height, it should allow the user to stand with both shoulders level. The angle of the elbow ideally should be between 25 to 30 degrees of flexion.
To achieve the right height, the user is required to stand upright with hands by his/her sides. Once in this position, the distance from the wrist to the floor provides the required walking stick length.
It is very important that a good sized rubber tip is placed on the end of any walking stick. It should be 1-2 inches wide in order to ensure adequate traction and safety. The rubber tips tend to become worn out over time and it is recommended to get these checked regularly and replaced once fully worn.
A variety of colors are available; such as your traditional black and brown canes, as well as floral and colorful patterned canes.