One of the things that make me a bit crazy are walking sticks. I see people using them incorrectly all the time and have to resist the temptation to run across the street and teach them how to do it properly. You wouldn’t have thought that something as simple as using a stick could be so complicated.
The first thing that I notice is that people never seem to have their sticks cut to the proper length. Some have them so short that they are leaning forward and bent over. The stick is supposed to take some of the effort out of walking and this won’t happen when you are in a semi-unbalanced state all of the time. Other people have the stick so high that their arm is held bent and they can’t actually take any amount of weight through the stick. You should be able to put some weight through the stick with a straight elbow while the stick is at your side, not too far forward or to far to the side. You will find that having the stick tip around 5-10 centimetres (2-4 inches) in front and to the side will be about right. The actual distances will vary somewhat depending on your own size and shape. You need to be able to fully straighten your elbow when using the stick so that your arm muscles can work efficiently.
Measuring a walking stick.
(For a complete description of how to measure a walking stick go to stick measurement . This shop has a full description of how to measure a walking stick and a variety of different and interesting types of sticks that will show you just what is available.)
The stick also needs to be used correctly. You should not overload the stick and certainly not lean on top of it. It is commonly used to take weight off of one side of your body and should be held in the opposite hand. Using the stick in the opposite hand helps to lessen the load by allowing weight to be distributed between the two sides of the body or by lessening the work needed by the muscles on the affected side to hold you up. A good example is when a person has a sensitive hip the muscles in the hip area will compress the joint and make the joint more sensitive. If the stick is pushing your weight up from the other side the muscles don’t have to work so hard and there is less compression in the joint. If you have a sore knee or ankle the stick can be used to lessen the amount of weight that is being applied by shifting it to the opposite arm and leg.
When cutting or adjusting a stick you need to take into consideration whether there will be a rubber or metal ferrule (the rubber tip or possibly metal studs for using the stick on ice) that will be added on afterwards as this will make the stick longer again and this can also cause you to push inefficiently with your arm.
For some a stick will be a temporary assist to allow injuries to settle down, heal and get a rehabilitation program started. For others, a stick may be a necessity to allow a person to continue to function because of age, illness or permanent injury.
Remember that a stick is to assist and not to take all of your weight. If you lean too heavily you risk falling either because the stick breaks or because the tip might slip if it is not placed down flat.
What ever your reason for having a stick, it’s best to have it measured correctly and to use it properly. I will be back soon with some information on ways to walk with a stick or crutches to help you get moving as quickly and safely as possible.