Do I need a walking stick?
The riddle of the Sphinx says human beings walked first on four legs, then on two, and finally on three- the third leg being the walking stick that props up the elderly. It is not uncommon to see the elderly population sporting various assistive walking devices to help maintain their mobility, independence and autonomy. However, with studies reporting many people obtain their walking aids from non-healthcare resources, it may lead to unsafe and inefficient use and actually cause more harm than good.
Often balance disturbances, motor skill issues and joint or skeletal problems may warrant the use of a walking aid, such as a stick.
There are different types of walking sticks, ranging in size and style- all which serve different purposes. A single point stick stabilises a client’s walking pattern and improves balance by providing an extra point of contact with the ground (Freter, 2002). An offset stick may provide greater stability and could be useful for those with osteoarthritic hips or those suffering knee pain. For more substantial weight bearing purposes, such as in the case of a hemiplegic client post-stroke, a 4-point quad stick may be indicated (Lam, 2007).
Ensuring height adjustment fastenings are secure and rubber tips are fitted to prevent slipping are some safety aspects of walking sticks which need to be considered.
Additional factors such as “cognitive function, coordination, upper-body and grip strength, physical endurance, walking environment and ultimately, a client’s performance and personal preference”, will dictate the correct aid (Lam, 2007).
A physiotherapist can assess the mobility of a client and make recommendations into the type of walking aid (e.g. walking stick v.s. walking frame) someone may require. Physiotherapists can then also adjust the walking aid appropriate to the individual AND teach correct technique using the aid to maximise function and safety.
By: Nadeesha Piyaratne – Revita Physio superstar!
Freter, Susan. (2002). Walking Aids. Encyclopaedia of Ageing. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3402200425.html
Lam, R. (2007). Choosing the correct walking aid for the patients. Canadian Family Physician, 53(12), 2115-2116.