Living With Polio

Canes – Pick the Right Stick

A cane may be adequate if you need minimal support. First determine the correct length of the cane. If it is too long and your elbow stays bent when you lean on the cane, the triceps muscle at the back of the elbow has to stay contracted. This can lead to muscle fatigue and pain in your shoulder.

To prevent overworking the triceps, the cane handle should be at the height of the wrist when your arm is hanging at your side. This allows your elbow to straighten and “lock” itself in the straight position when you lean on the cane. Too short a cane isn’t good either – you don’t want to lean to the side.

A curved handle puts a lot of pressure in the middle of the palm, while a straight handle distributes the weight across the hand more evenly. Although a slight difference in diameter may seem trivial, a thicker cane does give more support than a thin one. Aluminum and carbon fiber canes are lighter than wood and have buttons for adjusting the height.

The cane should be used on the side opposite the weaker leg to give a wider base of support. However, this may not work well if the opposite arm is weak. If both legs are equally weak you probably need more assistance than a cane provides.

© 1999-2008 Grace R. Young
Courtesy of Diane Young and Sharon Lark.

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Assistive Devices