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An older adult using a walker.

Physical therapists recommend that older adults who use canes and walkers as walking aids be properly assessed and fitted by a physical therapist to avoid falls and related injuries.

With emergency rooms experiencing 47,000 fall-related visits annually from older adults due to improper use and fit of walking aids*, assessment by a physical therapist can help reduce the number of these dangerous incidents by ensuring appropriateness and proper fit of the walking device.

Here are some tips for using walkers and canes:

1. Wrist height

The walker or cane should be about the height of your wrists when your arms are at your sides.

2. Arms slightly bent ...

When using a walker, your arms should be slightly bent when holding on.

3. ...without bending forward.

You shouldn't have to bend forward at the waist to reach your walker.

4. Sturdy walking aid

Periodically check the rubber tips at the bottom of the cane or walker. Be sure to replace them if they are uneven or worn through.

5. Your walking aid

Physical therapists advise against using a walking aids borrowed from friends and family that is not the right fit for you. This often leads to misuse, and can result in injury. Not sure if your walking aid is the right fit? Your physical therapist can evaluate your walking aid fit and determine if it is in proper working condition.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.

Find a PT Near You!

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Stevens JA, Thomas K, Teh L, Greenspan AI. Unintentional fall injuries associated with walkers and canes in older adults treated in U.S. emergency departments. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009;57(8):1464-1469. Article Summary on PubMed.

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