Although some people think about using a walking stick and scoff, it can be a super effective tool in off loading a painful leg (e.g. osteoarthritis of the knee/hip, post-operation, fracture). In fact, a walking stick can reduce the force travelling through the affected lower limb, as well as reduce the force requirements from the associated muscles in the lower limb. It has been shown in research to reduce compressive joint forces in those with knee and hip osteoarthritis as well as knee and hip muscles forces following a total knee or total hip replacement.
There’s a couple things to keep in mind when using your standard single point walking stick or single crutch that we often correct and those are: which hand you hold it in, and how tall does it need to be?
A lot of people we see coming through the clinic assume that they must use their walking stick or crutch in the same hand as their painful leg, but often complain that they don’t find it very helpful and can often exacerbate their symptoms. Well in fact they’re right, holding a walking stick on the same side while walking can actually increase joint forces which in turn may result in further discomfort. The answer is to hold the walking stick or crutch in the opposite hand, and plant the crutch along with your painful leg to offload the affected structure. Some people think of it as quite unnatural, however they often find their walking pattern actually feels more normal than before.
Next, how tall should your walking stick be? Put it too low and you’ll have to hunch over to meet it, too high and it won’t be an effective weight bearing tool. The rule of thumb is that when your arm is hanging by your side and you’re standing up tall, the handle of the walking stick or crutch should be approximately at wrist height so that as you’re walking with it you have a slight bend in your elbow. Most modern walking sticks and crutches are easily adjustable, however keep an eye out for fixed height walking sticks as one size does not fit all.
Hopefully that helps provide a better understanding of walking stick and single crutch use, whether it’s for yourself, a friend, or family member. If you’re still unsure and would like further input, please contact us for firstname.lastname@example.org or come by the clinic with your questions. Happy trails!