Walking Aids

A step towards better mobility

We have mentioned before in previous blogs how being able to get out and about can massively impact physical ability and mental health, and because it is such an important concept we thought we should cover the walking aids that are available.

Many people of varying ages use these in an effort to promote improved recovery, an improved state of mind and allow them to meet up with family and friends.

There are many different aids to help with walking, each designed to suit individual requirements. If you are looking for extra support when walking we hope the information below will help you.

Walking Sticks

If you are able to get around reasonably well but just want that extra confidence when standing or walking to the shops or even the next room a walking stick could be just what you need.

Surprisingly there is more of a range of walking stick than you would think. You can choose from a range of walking stick types, including:

  • Folding walking sticks
  • Shock absorbing walking sticks
  • Height adjustable sticks with foldable seats
  • Wide base 3-point contact/tripod sticks for maximum stability
  • Heavy duty sticks to take extra weight
  • All-terrain canes which can be used on virtually any surface

The above walking sticks can come with a range of handles to suit the user:

  • Swan-shaped handles which keeps the user’s weight directly over the shaft providing better balance
  • Straight, T-shaped handles which allows for the user to get their hand right round and makes for a better grip
  • Anatomic and ergonomic grip handles are ideal for arthritic or sensitive hands as they spread the users weight evenly and can reduce discomfort

Which type of walking stick is best?

The choice of a walking stick, also known as a cane, depends on various factors, including the individual’s specific needs, mobility limitations, and personal preferences. Here are some common types of walking sticks and their features to consider:

Single-Point Cane: This is the most basic and traditional type of walking stick. It has a single tip or point at the bottom for stability. Single-point canes are lightweight, portable, and easy to manoeuvre. They are suitable for individuals who require minimal support and balance assistance.

Quad Cane: A quad cane has a four-pointed base at the bottom, offering increased stability and weight-bearing capacity. The wider base provides better stability on uneven surfaces and can support individuals with more significant balance or weight-bearing needs. Quad canes are available in different configurations, such as small base or large base, and may include additional features like adjustable height and ergonomic handles.

Offset Cane: Offset canes have an angled handle that provides better weight distribution and stability. The handle is offset from the shaft of the cane, allowing the user’s weight to be directly over the shaft for improved balance. Offset canes often feature ergonomic handles that are more comfortable to grip.

Folding Cane: Folding canes are designed for portability and convenience. They can be folded into a compact size for easy storage and transport. Folding canes are ideal for individuals who may need intermittent support or prefer to carry their cane with them when not in use.

Adjustable Cane: Adjustable canes allow the height to be easily adjusted to accommodate the user’s height and comfort. They typically have a telescopic design with multiple height settings. Adjustable canes are versatile and can be tailored to the user’s specific needs or adjusted as their needs change over time.

When selecting a walking stick, it is important to consider factors such as height adjustability, grip comfort, weight, stability, and any specific features that may enhance usability. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist who can assess your specific needs and provide recommendations on the most suitable walking stick for your circumstances.

Can I get a walking stick on the NHS?

Yes, in the United Kingdom, it is possible to obtain a walking stick through the National Health Service (NHS) if you have a medical need for it. The availability of walking sticks through the NHS is subject to assessment and eligibility criteria.

Typically, the process involves the following steps:

Assessment: An assessment is carried out by healthcare professionals, such as occupational therapists or physiotherapists, who evaluate your mobility needs and determine the appropriate type of walking stick.

Prescription: Based on the assessment, a prescription is issued for the recommended walking stick type and specifications. This prescription includes details such as the type of walking stick (e.g., single-point cane, quad cane), height requirements, and any specific features needed.

Walking Stick Provision: The prescribed walking stick can be provided through the NHS or contracted suppliers. It may be available for immediate provision, or there may be a waiting period depending on the demand and availability of resources.

It is important to note that the eligibility criteria and specific processes may vary depending on the region within the UK. The NHS walking stick services aim to ensure that individuals with mobility needs have access to appropriate equipment to support their independence and mobility.

If you believe you have a medical need for a walking stick, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or reach out to your local NHS services or GP for guidance on the assessment and application process in your area. They can assess your needs, provide appropriate recommendations, and assist you in accessing the walking stick through the NHS if eligible.

Crutches

Crutches are often associated with broken legs or feet but can be used to make life more bearable when recovering from other conditions or even just to add a bit more confidence to the walk around the house.

They come in two types, underarm and forearm, and are often made from aluminium which makes them lightweight but strong enough to cope with various weights and outdoor use. They often come with a number of features to help support your needs including:

  • Adjustable centre tubes to offer additional strength
  • Adjustable forearms for comfort and to suit your height
  • Slip-resistant ferrules (or feet)
  • PVC impact absorbing handgrips

Walking Frames

These are also known as Zimmer frames and have been designed to help individuals move about inside or outside thanks to their lightweight, strong aluminium frame and rubber capped legs.

All frames come with adjustable height but there are a few variations to the basic model. These include:

  • Baskets to help the user carry small light items
  • Foldable frames for easy storage or packing in the car or on the bus
  • Narrower designs should the doorways in your home be narrow
  • Seats to allow the user to take a quick rest should they become tired easily
  • The option of wheels on the back two legs

What is the correct height for a walking frame?

The correct height for a walking frame, also known as a rollator, can vary depending on the individual’s height, posture, and comfort. Here are some general guidelines to help determine the appropriate height:

Standing Posture: Start by having the individual stand upright with their shoes on and their arms relaxed at their sides. The rollator handles should be positioned at wrist level when the person’s hands are resting comfortably on the handles. This position allows for optimal comfort and control while walking.

Elbow Bend: When gripping the rollator handles, the person’s elbows should be slightly bent, typically at an angle of about 20 to 30 degrees. This bent elbow position ensures that there is adequate leverage and support during walking.

Comfort and Stability: The height of the rollator should be adjusted to a level where the person feels comfortable and stable. The individual should be able to walk with a natural gait, without having to stoop over or strain their posture.

Customization: Some rollators offer adjustable handle heights, allowing for a more customized fit. If possible, choose a rollator with adjustable handle height settings to accommodate individual preferences and needs.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and individual variations can occur. Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist or physical therapist, can provide further guidance and help determine the most appropriate height for a rollator based on an individual’s specific needs, posture, and mobility requirements. They can assess the individual’s condition, offer recommendations, and assist with proper fitting and adjustment of the rollator to ensure optimal comfort and functionality.

Is a walking frame better than a walking stick?

Whether a walking frame or a walking stick is better depends on the individual’s specific needs, mobility limitations, and personal preferences. Both walking frames (also known as rollators) and walking sticks have their advantages and considerations. Here are some points to consider:

Walking Frame (Rollator):

Stability and Support: Walking frames provide a higher level of stability and support compared to walking sticks. They have a wider base and often include four wheels, offering enhanced balance and weight-bearing support.

Seat and Storage: Many walking frames come with a built-in seat, allowing users to rest when needed. Some models also include storage compartments or baskets to carry personal items.

Brakes: Rollators are typically equipped with brakes, allowing users to stop or control their movement easily. This can be particularly beneficial when navigating inclines or when needing to stabilise oneself.

Height Adjustability: Most walking frames offer height-adjustable handles to accommodate individuals of different heights.

Walking Stick (Cane):

Portability and Manoeuvrability: Walking sticks are generally lighter and more compact than walking frames, making them easier to transport and manoeuvre in tight spaces.

Flexibility: A walking stick provides more freedom of movement as it requires only one hand to use, allowing the other hand to remain free. This can be advantageous for individuals who need to perform tasks while walking or require less support.

Adjustability: Some walking sticks offer height adjustability, allowing users to customise the height for optimal comfort and support.

Accessibility: Walking sticks can be beneficial in situations where a rollator may be too bulky or cumbersome, such as in narrow hallways or crowded areas.

Ultimately, the choice between a walking frame and a walking stick depends on individual circumstances. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, who can assess your specific needs and provide recommendations tailored to your situation. They can help determine which option would best support your mobility, stability, and overall well-being.

Rollators or Walkers

These devices are most suited to those who would struggle to lift a frame or who want to venture a little further. These can come with 3 wheels, 4 wheels and there are even 2-in-1 rollators which can convert to a transit chair to allow friends or family to assist over short distances.

A 3-Wheel rollator will help reduce the risk of you falling and will sometimes include a built-in basket for you to store your shopping. These have been carefully designed to help you maintain balance whether there are items in the basket or not.

4-Wheel rollators – often include baskets and a seat if you need to stop for a rest.

As with all disability equipment, which type you need depends greatly on your level of movement and what you want to get from its usage.

The best way to ensure you are looking at the right one is to visit your preferred disability equipment supplier and test some. Also, never feel pressured by the sales person. You will know better than them as to which is better for you.

If you have experience in using any of these walking aids and have helpful advice for others, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch here.