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How to Choose and Use a Cane


What is a cane? A cane is a stick used to give you support and balance when walking. Most canes are made of metal, wood, or plastic.

Why do I need to use a cane? You may need to use a cane if you are weak on one side of your body. If you have balance problems you may also need to use a cane. The cane may decrease your pain when walking because it takes weight off your leg and joints. Using a cane may help you to feel less tired.

What kind of cane should I use? There are many kinds of canes. A cane can be made longer or shorter to fit your height. Your caregiver will help choose the cane that is right for you. The ends of the canes usually have nonskid rubber tips to prevent them from slipping. You can buy canes at drug stores and medical supply stores. The following are 3 kinds of canes:

Different Types of Canes

  • Standard canes: This type of cane is usually made of wood or metal. The cane may be 34 to 42 inches (86 to 107 cm) long and may have a rounded crook handle. This cane is easy to use and is usually not very expensive. Try to get a cane that has a wooden or plastic handle instead of metal. A metal handle may slip from your hand if your hand sweats. In cold weather the metal handle may get too cold for you to touch.

  • Straight-handled canes: This cane may also be called a "T-handle cane" and is usually made of wood, plastic, or metal. You may need this type of cane if your hand is weak. Using a T-handle cane may help you be more steady when you walk. It is important that the height of the cane is correct for you.

  • Broad-based canes: This is a lightweight metal cane with 3 or 4 short legs. These legs give you a lot of support. The legs also allow the cane to stand-up when not in use. You may need this type of cane because it is hard for you to keep your balance.

How do I use the cane? Your caregiver will teach you how to use your cane. The following steps may also help you learn to get in and out of a chair and to walk using a cane.

  • Using your cane to get into a chair:

    • Stand with the back of your legs against the chair seat.

    • Rest the cane against the chair.

    • Reach back with both hands to grip the chair arms.

    • Put your weaker leg slightly off the floor.

    • Put all your weight on your stronger leg.

    • Slowly sit down and slide backwards into the chair.

  • Using your cane to get out of a chair:

    • Hold your cane with your stronger hand.

    • Grasp the arms of the chair.

    • Put your stronger foot a little forward.
      Pictures of a man using a cane to get out of a chair

    • Lean a little forward and push on the arms of the chair to raise yourself.

    • Stand with your cane about 4 inches (10 cm) to the side of your stronger foot.

    • Wait a few seconds to get used to standing before you start walking.

  • Using your cane to walk on flat floors:

    • Put the cane about 4 inches (10 cm) to the side of your stronger leg.

    • Put weight on your stronger side.

    • Move the cane about 4 inches (10 cm) in front of your stronger leg, bringing your weaker leg forward at the same time.
      Picture of a man with a cane and cane placement steps

    • Using the cane to help keep your weight off your weaker leg, move your stronger leg ahead.

    • Your heel will be a little beyond the tip of the cane.

    • Repeat these steps and try to walk straight.

  • Using your cane on stairs: Ask your caregiver to show you how to safely use your cane on stairs. Do not use your cane on the stairs unless someone is with you.

Tips for using your cane safely:

  • Wear shoes with rubber soles, such as tennis shoes. Slippers should not be worn because they can slide off your feet and cause a fall. Do not wear shoes with leather heels or soles that may slide and cause you to fall.

  • Check the floor to be sure it is safe for using the cane. The floor must be clean, dry, and well lit. Remove throw rugs to prevent falls. Tape or nail down loose carpet edges. Keep the traffic areas and the floor free of clutter.

  • Stand a few seconds before you start moving with your cane. This will get your body used to standing. Do not start walking if you are dizzy.

  • Look straight ahead when you are walking. You may run into or trip over something if you are looking at your feet.

  • To carry light things while using your cane, use a backpack or carry a bag. Do not try to carry heavy things.


You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your illness, injury, and the best way to use your cane. You can then discuss your treatment options with your caregivers. They can help you decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of the Blausen Databases or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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