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How do I know if I need a walker or cane?

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caneAs a Physical Therapist, I am often asked this question by the older people I work with, as well as their family members. Physical Therapists truly are the experts in "gait training", or analyzing how you walk. We receive extensive education in gait training while we are in school, and many of us continue to seek out additional learning opportunities after we complete our education. As a result, a Physical Therapist can tell you if you need a walker or a cane after doing a few simple balance tests with you and watching you walk.

The primary things a Physical Therapist will examine are:

  1. The way you walk, noting how steady you are and if you need to hold on to anything when you walk
  2. The speed that you walk
  3. The strength in your legs
  4. Your balance- this is assessed by doing simple activities such as asking you to stand with your feet close together, stand with your eyes closed, and stand on one foot.

In addition, a Physical Therapist should ask you for your medical history as there are some illnesses and medications that increase your fall risk. Determining if you need a walker or cane is only one part of a comprehensive Physical Therapy evaluation, but it's very important. As a Physical Therapist I tell all of my clients that safety comes first and there are a lot of little things you can do to reduce your fall risk.

Sometimes people don't want to use a walker or cane because they worry it will make them look "old" or "weak". But the truth is that using a walker or cane can often increase your independence, rather than decrease it.

If you are finding yourself leaning on furniture to get around your house, feel unsteady when you walk, or have fallen in the past, I highly recommend asking your doctor for a referral to a Physical Therapist, who can determine what you need to stay safe and independent. Most insurance companies, including Medicare, cover Physical Therapy with an order from your doctor.

Are you experiencing any of the issues stated above and need someone with you when you leave the home to help you get out for appointments? If so, you may qualify for a Physical Therapist to come to your home.

Read 6389 times Last modified on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 15:58

Tara Anderson, MPT, CEEAA
Owner of At Home Rehab

Tara Anderson is a licensed physical therapist with a passion for improving the quality of life for our aging population. Tara has been a physical therapist for 16 years and is a Certified Exercise Expert for the Aging Adult. She has experience as a physical therapist working with our older population in acute care, rehab facilities, outpatient clinics and has spent the past 10 years in home health care. Tara is the owner and founder of At Home Rehab, a Medicare certified home health agency in Grand Rapids, MI. In her spare time, Tara enjoys biking, running and spending time her family.