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Wooden cane

An assistive cane is a walking stick used as a crutch or mobility aid. A cane can help redistribute weight from a lower leg that is weak or painful, improve stability by increasing the base of support, and provide tactile information about the ground to improve balance. In the US, ten percent of adults older than 65 years use a cane, and 4.6 percent use walkers.[1]

In contrast to crutches, canes are generally lighter, but, because they transfer the load through the user's unsupported wrist, are unable to offload equal loads from the legs.

Another type of crutch is the walker, a frame held in front of the user and which the user leans on during movement. Walkers are more stable due to their increased area of ground contact, but are larger and less wieldy and, like canes, pass the full load through the user's wrists in most cases.

Parts of medical canes

Bottom of a quad cane showing ferrules

The basic cane has four parts.[2] These parts vary depending on the design of the cane and the needs of the user.

Modern canes may differ from the traditional fixed structure. For instance, a quad cane has a base attached to the shaft that provides increased stability by having four ferrules, and an adjustable cane may have two shaft segments telescoping one inside the other to allow adjustment for multiple sizes.

All cane users who need a walking cane for medical reasons should consult a medical professional before choosing the style that best suits them. It is particularly important that the cane be the proper height for the individual user.

Types of canes

White cane
Forearm crutch/cane



Canes are generally held in the hand that is opposite to the side of the injury or weakness. It allows the cane to be used for stability in a way that lets the user focus much of their weight away from their weaker side and onto the cane. This prevents the person's center of balance from swaying from side to side as they walk. It also allows for fluid movement that better matches walking, as the hand on the opposite side of the leg generally sways forward in normal human locomotion . Personal preference, or a need to hold the cane in the dominant hand means some cane users choose to hold the cane on the same side as the affected leg.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Sarah M. Bradley; Cameron R. Hernandez (August 15, 2011). "Geriatric Assistive Devices" (PDF). American Family Physician. 84 (4). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 26, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Anatomy of a Walking Cane,, archived from the original on 2009-10-17
  3. ^ "Do I need a white stick and where can I get one from? - RNIB - supporting blind and partially sighted people". Royal National Institute of Blind People. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  4. ^ Walking Cane, About, archived from the original on 2013-01-17, retrieved 2006-09-02