How To Climb Stairs Safely With A Cane

This can be tricky if you don't know how! 

First, make sure your cane is adjusted to the correct height. Ask your physio to do this. If you don't have access to a physio, look at my blog entitled "how to get your cane height right."

The general rule for stair climbing is put the good leg up first when going up, and put the affected leg first when going down. 

With a rail

Facing forwards, put the cane in the opposite hand to to rail.

Going up

  1. Take the first step up with the good leg. Leave the cane on the step with your affected leg. (Unless your physio asks you to do this differently). Take weight through the cane and rail when stepping up with your good leg. 
  2. Then move the cane followed by the affected leg.

Going down

  1. Hold the rail. Put your cane down first, then your affected leg. 
  2. Step down with the good leg.

What happens if you don't have a rail? 

If your physio tells you that you are ok with just one cane, (you could use 2 for more support on steps with no rail), then:

Keep the cane in the hand opposite your affected leg, as you would for normal walking and follow the general rule for stairs. 

Put your good leg up first when going up, and your cane then affected leg down first when going down. 

This link has some nice pictures to make everything clear.

R. Sian Owen PT

Registered Phystiotherapist

Why do we use a cane and what types of canes are there?

Cane tip, single point cane, mini quad cane, wide base quad cane. 

Cane tip, single point cane, mini quad cane, wide base quad cane. 

1)    Why do we use a cane?

A cane is used to assist with walking or standing, when our legs are compromised in some way, such as with a fracture or a stroke. It allows us to use our arms to help take the weight that would normally go through our leg. 

2)    Types of canes.

·      Single Point Cane (SPC)

These can be metal or wood. The benefit of the metal cane is it can be adjusted up or down to the correct height, whereas wood can only be cut down.

·      Quad cane. (Four legs)

These are used when more support is needed; perhaps balance is compromise as well. There are different sized bases, with the bigger base providing more stability. The down side of having a bigger base is it can catch in narrow spaces/doorways, and cannot be used safely on slopes or uneven ground.

·      Tripod. (Three legs)

This is used for more support, as for a quad cane above, but less stable.

Other considerations

·      Make sure the cane tip is not worn down and has some traction when you weight bear through it.

·      Be sure to buy a cane with a comfortable handle for you so that your hand doesn’t get sore while you are using it.

See  for more detailed information

In my next blogs, I will talk about how to measure and adjust the height of a cane, and how to walk with your cane.

R. Sian Owen

Registered Physiotherapist