For most individuals, the probability that an assistive device may be needed seems very unlikely. Walking, and basic movements like getting out of bed, in and out of a car and climbing up the stairs are some of things we take for granted. As one gets older, muscles and joints tend to degenerate, resulting in aches and pains.
The fact is, you may need to use a cane / walker or other assistive devices at some point in your life. Age-related pathologies like osteoarthritis or sudden traumatic injuries can lead to difficulty with daily tasks. Physical therapy is an important part of the rehabilitation process. Physical therapists advocate the use of assistive devices as part of their treatment especially when patients experience decrease in mobility and restricted function.
Assisted walking devices help patients perform daily activities in a pain free manner, and also improve mobility. Assisted walking devices include, but are not limited to, canes, walkers, and crutches. Physical therapists often prescribe such devices following a detailed assessment of the patient’s deficits and requirements. Here are important tips on how to get the most benefit out of the use of assisted walking devices:
Crutches: Crutches are used by individuals who need stability and support in the lower body. When using crutches, ensure that they are of the right length and they comfortably sit under the armpit. Sufficient upper body strength is important for balance. Your physical therapist will identify the best walking pattern for you, and will train you to use the crutch correctly.
Walkers: Walkers are generally used by individuals with balance impairments. Elderly patients often use walkers to reduce the risk of falls. The key to using a walker is to ensure that it is of the right height and that the patient does not stoop down too much to support himself or herself. Most walkers have an adjustable height option. Some walkers allow adjustments for patients to climb stairs as well. The key is to hold firmly and to lean forward slightly while using a walker.
Cane: A cane also helps individuals struggling with balance. A ‘quad cane’ has four anchor points and provides a high level of stability. In general, the cane is held on the dominant, stronger arm to support the opposite side, but your physical therapist will make that determination. A cane is generally used in conjunction with the movement of the opposite affected leg.
Assistive devices serve many purposes, and are not restricted to locomotion alone. They assist the individual to perform day-to-day activities in an efficient manner. For example, an assistive device called a grabber helps patients pick up any objects on the floor. In the bathrooms, a grab bar on the wall can be helpful in assisting patients to stand up from a seated position.
Individuals who demonstrate weakness with one side the body may be prescribed a single point cane. For individuals with weakness in both their lower limbs or those who have suffered from some form of injury, crutches or a walker are generally recommended.
Physical therapists play an important role in helping patients stay mobile and maintain independence. There is a lot that your physical therapist can do for you. With the right treatment approach involving exercise and manual therapy, there is a possibility that you may regain full function without the need for an assistive device. That’s how life changing physical therapy can be for you. Contact us today to learn more. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.
Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.