It is important to start walking soon after surgery for a leg injury. But you will need support while your leg is healing. A cane can be used for support. It may be a good choice if you only need a little help with balance and stability, or if your leg is only a little weak or painful.
The 2 main types of canes are:
Your surgeon or physical therapist will help you choose the type of cane that is best for you. The type of cane you use will depend on how much support you need.
Talk to your health care provider or therapist if you are having a lot of pain, weakness, or balance problems. Crutches or a walker may be better options for you.
The most common question about using a cane is, "Which hand should I hold it in?" The answer is the hand opposite the leg that you had surgery on, or that is the weakest.
The tip or all 4 prongs need to be on the ground before you put your weight on your cane.
Look forward when you walk, not down at your feet.
Make sure your cane has been adjusted to your height:
Choose a cane with a comfortable handle.
Use a chair with armrests when you can to make sitting and standing easier.
Follow these steps when you walk with a cane:
To go up one step or a curb:
To go down one step or a curb:
If you had surgery on both legs, still lead with your strong leg when going up and your weak leg when going down. Remember, "up with the good, down with the bad."
If there is a handrail, hold onto it and use your cane in the other hand. Use the same method for a set of stairs that you do for single steps.
Go up the stairs with your stronger leg first, then your weaker leg, and then the cane.
If you are going down the stairs, start with your cane, then your weaker leg, and then your strong leg.
Take the steps one at a time.
When you reach the top, stop for a moment to regain your balance and strength before moving on.
If you had surgery on both legs, lead with your stronger leg when going up and your weaker leg when going down.
Make changes around your house to prevent falls.
Check the tip or tips of your cane daily and replace them if they are worn. You can get new tips at your medical supply store or local drug store.
As you are learning to use your cane, have someone close by to give you extra support if needed.
Use a small backpack, fanny pack, or shoulder bag to hold items that you need with you (such as your phone). This will keep your hands free while you are walking.
Edelstein J. Canes, crutches, and walkers. In: Webster JB, Murphy DP, eds. Atlas of Orthoses and Assistive Devices. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 36.
Meftah M, Ranawat AS, Ranawat AS, Caughran AT. Total hip replacement rehabilitation: progression and restrictions. In: Giangarra CE, Manske RC, eds. Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 66.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/27/2023
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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