There are many different assistive devices available that help to improve mobility and balance of individuals who are having difficulty walking. An assistive device may be indicated for impairments or disabilities resulting from structural deformity, amputation, injury or disease causing decreased ability to bear weight through one or both lower extremities. Other conditions include muscle weakness, paralysis or impaired balance.
Selecting the right assistive device is very important. When determining which device is right for you, consider the amount of support the device offers; the coordination required to manipulate the device, as well as your strength, ROM, balance and weight bearing restrictions.
Walking assistive devices are classified based upon the amount of stability they provide. Below is a list of assistive devices ordered from most stability to least stability:
- Axillary Crutches
- Forearm Crutches (Lofstrand)
- Two Canes
- One Cane
Walkers are appropriate for individuals with poor balance/coordination and those who have decreased weight bearing on one or both lower extremities.
Crutches can be used when there needs to be decreased weight bearing on one lower extremity. In order to effectively use crutches, you will need good upper body strength and coordination. Axillary crutches are slightly more stable and easy to use than Lofstrand crutches; however Lofstrand crutches allow more ease of movement and freedom of the hands without dropping the crutch.
Canes are used for those who have slight weakness of one or both lower extremities, pain in a lower extremity or who need assistance with balance during ambulation. Canes are the least stable assistive devices, and come in a wide variety of styles.
If you have a condition that may require an assistive device or need help with proper use of an assistive device you already have a physical therapist can help.