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 http://www.walkingaidreview.com  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






A feat of biological engineering.

Image: pinterest.com

Image: pinterest.com

“These feet were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do….”

Nancy Sinatra was, in fact, singing about boots, but she wasn’t wrong when she said that those appendages at the bottom of our legs were meant for walking. Then there’s standing, tip-toeing, running, jumping, dancing, skating, skipping, swimming; keeping us hooked to a bike or a horse; tight rope walking. Feet can even do the work of hands for some people. Our feet do an incredible job for us; here are some of their amazing every-day achievements.

1.     Our feet keep us grounded.

Our large, oval shaped feet are what keep us connected to the ground. Together with our magnificent brains, they give us the ability to balance on different surfaces, or in different conditions (ice, wet, high wind, for example). Multiple bones and joints form two arches (longitudinal and transverse) that react to different stimuli, such as sandy or rough ground, and help keep us upright. Our feet have thousands of nerve endings that detect information about the surface they’re on. This information travels at high speed to our brain, which relays urgent messages back to the foot muscles to get working. End result – we don’t fall over.

2.     They’re at the centre of things.

We all have an invisible base of support, a no-falls safe zone. When we’re upright, with feet shoulder width apart, it’s a rough circle around the feet, about as wide as our shoulders. The closer together our feet are, the narrower the base of support. If we’re standing our body needs to be perpendicular to this circle, but if we’re running it will move a little beyond the circle as we gather momentum. If we move too far beyond our base of support we’ll start to fall. Our feet are key to helping us stay within this safe zone, informing our brain when we move too far beyond it, and activating the right muscles to bring us back in.

3.     They’re team players.

Our feet work with muscles in our legs to enable us to move. Strong calf muscles (plantar flexors) push the front of the foot into the ground. The heel rises, and bingo, you’re off walking! Next we swing our leg through space, preparing to land the heel. Shin muscles (dorsiflexors) automatically pull up the foot, so that our toes don’t get caught on the ground. Muscle work is all about sharing the load: some muscles work as prime movers such as the dorsiflexors to lift the foot, others work as stabilisers such as the muscles in the other leg to hold us up.

4.     They are super-adaptable.

Some people use their feet to draw and write. Take a look at these beautiful pictures drawn by an artist using his right foot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mtxh

All this work is pretty hard on your feet. Here’s how you can help keep them healthy and rested.

1.     Wear shoes that support but that aren’t too tight. Beware of shoes that pinch, especially those that squish your toes together. The shoes may look cool, but damaged toes and bunions don’t.

2.     Include a foot and ankle strengthening routine in your work-out. You can get information on specific strengthening exercises from a physiotherapist.

3.     Don’t over-do any activity, including the above-mentioned strengthening exercises. Over-use of tendons or muscles that move the foot, for example, can cause peroneal tendinitis or shin slints.

4.     See a foot specialist if you have problems with your feet (corns, bunions, pain, swelling). Regular care by the right professional will keep your feet strong and healthy and ready to work wonders for you.

5.     Pamper your feet occasionally with a home foot-spa. Even a basin of warm water and some soft towels will make them feel loved.

For more information about feet and foot care visit the College of Chiropodists of Ontario. You can search for a licensed chiropodist or podiatrist here www.cocoo.on.ca

R. Sian Owen PT