Using a walker with wheels can be a great help for those who need a little extra support or mobility assistance.
But the process of using a walking frame and the way they support you is different from the types of walkers that don’t have wheels.
In this article, we’ll be diving into the specifics of how to use wheeled walkers in a variety of situations.
How do you walk with a walker with wheels? Some walkers have wheels on the front two legs. Others have wheels on all four legs (also known as rollators). To use a walker with two wheels:
- Keep it close to your body
- Don’t try to lift it – simply push it forward slightly
- Take small steps
- Rely on your upper body and the walker to carry most of your weight
Walkers and other mobility aids have become extremely innovative and have gotten safer over the years. But understanding how to properly use them is equally as important to overall safety.
How Do You Use Wheels On A Walker?
While you learn to use a new walker, you should also be sure to check the manufacturer’s details regarding any of their specific guidelines or instructions.
It is also a good idea to check with an occupational therapist or your healthcare provider for recommendations on the best type of walker or mobility aid for your needs.
An estimated 47,312 older adult fall injuries associated with walking aids were treated annually in U.S. EDs [Emergency Departments]: 87.3% with walkers, 12.3% with canes, and 0.4% with both. Walkers were associated with seven times as many injuries as canes.Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
After finding the right walker for your unique situation, it needs to be properly fitted and adjusted to your height so that your elbows are bent about 20 degrees when you hold the frame.
Once your new assistive device has been set up to the right size, it is time to ensure you use it properly.
Here is a step by step tutorial for using a walker with wheels on it:
- Push the walker slightly in front of you
You will want to keep it close enough to your body so that it’s not a strain to reach it. You also don’t want to try to “catch up” to where you have pushed it. Instead, start with shorter steps to make sure you are stable.
- Ensure it is securely on the ground
Before you take your first step with a wheeled walker, make sure that all four legs/wheels are securely on the ground and that nothing has gotten underneath the legs or caused it to be lifted or off balance in any way.
- Look forward toward where you are going, not down at your walker or feet
Don’t try to watch your feet because it may cause you to lose your balance or you may run into something. Instead, look to the front and ahead of you, towards where you want to go.
- Step forward with your weaker leg (if applicable)
If you have had recent surgery or you have a weak leg or an injury to one leg, always lead with that foot. If both are equally as strong, lead with the side that feels most comfortable to you.
The reason you move with your weaker leg first is so you can be putting your weight into the walker while your other leg swings forward.
- Use upper body strength
After your first step, use your arms and upper body strength to hold yourself up on the walker. Allow most of your weight to be placed onto the handles.
- Step forward with your stronger leg
As you put your weight against the walker, swing your other foot up to the same place as your first step.
Repeat these steps and always ensure you are going at your own pace.
Transitioning From Sitting To Standing With A Wheeled Walker
When you get up from a sitting position to use your walker, you will want to make sure the walker stays secure and stable.
- Have the walker set up in front of you, open side facing you in your seat.
- Ensure all tips of the walker’s legs are securely on the ground.
- If you’re sitting on a chair with armrests, use those armrests to help you lift yourself. Relying on the walker to get up may result in a shift of balance that will cause the walker to tilt or cause a fall. Always ask for help if you need assistance getting up.
- Grab the handles of the walker firmly and allow it to take a majority of your weight while you steady yourself.
- Adjust the walker if necessary, to make sure it is close enough to you and in a good position to begin walking. Give yourself time if you need, before beginning to walk.
Transitioning From Standing To Sitting When Using A Walker With Wheels
On the flip side, when you need to go from standing to sitting, many of the same rules apply. It’s all about finding a secure and stable position and not allowing the walker to be tilted or tipped in any way.
- Put yourself in reverse – back up so that the back of your legs are touching the chair or seat.
- Ensure all of the walker’s legs and wheels are securely on the ground.
- Using one arm, reach behind you until you can grab the arm of the chair, handrails, or anything else that is sturdy and stable to help stabilize yourself.
- Holding the arm of the chair (or whatever you are holding on to), slowly allow yourself to sit while using that arm as a guide to settle into your seat.
- Don’t try to hold onto the walker as you descend into your seat.
- Slowly slide back into the chair after you have gotten yourself in a stable position.
We want you to be safe when you use your walker. The following fall safety tips will help to reduce your chances of taking a tumble.
- Remove throw rugs in the home so they don’t catch the walker’s wheels.
- Secure electrical cords to the floor or reroute them so they aren’t in your path.
- Get rid of any clutter that could impede your walking or cause you to trip.
- Keep the floors clean and dry.
- Wear shoes or slippers that have non-slip or rubber soles. Avoid wearing shoes that have leather soles or heels.
- Frequently check the tips and wheels of the walker. Replace them if they become worn. You can get replacement wheels online or at drugs stores, pharmacies, or a medical supply store.
- To keep your hands free, attach a basket or pouch (like a fanny pack) to the top of your walker or the sides of the walker to hold small items you need to carry with you.
How Do You Walk Up And Down Stairs With A Walker With Wheels?
IMPORTANT: Please DO NOT attempt to use stairs or an escalator until you have been trained in how to use them with a walker. Consult your physician to find a physical therapist who can instruct you.
NOTE: If at all possible, use a cane on stairs instead of a walker.
The biggest obstacle when going up and downstairs is finding ways to make your walker stable so you have all four legs securely on each step.
|Going Up||Going Down|
|Move your walker onto the step in front of you, then grasp the handrail with the hand closest to the rail. Use your other hand to swing the walker around so it is parallel to your hip (on the side of the free hand).||Grasp the handrail with one hand. Use the other hand to swing the walker sideways and place it parallel to your hip. Then move the back side of the walker down to the next step below the one you are currently standing on (the front of the frame will hang out into space).|
|Next, then lift the side of the walker nearest the steps up onto the first step. Push down on the walker to ensure it won’t slip, then step up with your strong leg.||Ensure the back edge of the frame is against the back edge of the step in the “crease” where the step you are standing on meets the next step down. Push down on this back edge to be sure it won’t slip.|
|Place all your weight on the walker on one side and the handrail on the other while bringing up the other / affected leg. Repeat until you reach the tops of the stairs.||Place your weight on the back walker legs with one hand. Hold the railing with the other hand, then lead with your weaker / injured leg (always “go down with the bad”) and step down. Next, bring the good leg down so both legs are on the step. Repeat until you reach the bottom of the stairs.|
This video should help you to better understand the steps:
How Do You Go Down A Ramp with A Walker?
With a ramp, your main concern should be in where you are putting your weight. Since the wheels on a rolling walker are typically in the front, it means you will need to lean into the back of the walker.
- Try to put your weight into the back legs so that they are the ones sticking to the ground and providing the support.
- Putting all your weight into the walker can be dangerous on a downward ramp, especially if you are leaning forward. Consider the momentum and go at a slower pace – try to keep a balanced center.
If you have concerns about being able to manage a ramp with two-wheel walkers, always chat with your medical professional for additional tips. Many times, a physical therapist can be assigned to help with the movements and execution of trickier obstacles such as a ramp.
Can You Push Someone On A Rollator?
Rollators typically have a seat and a back support of some sort, which allows you to lean back into the chair and be comfortable as you rest in between walking.
Since rollators have wheels on all four legs, you can be pushed while sitting on it. But keep in mind you will need to keep your feet raised so that they don’t drag and injure you.
Some rollators come with footrests, like wheelchair footrests, for this exact reason. These are considered a hybrid between a rollator and a wheelchair and are great for people who need to be pushed on occasion.
Can You Put Wheels On A Walker (Or Do You Have To Buy It With Wheels Already On It)?
Actually, it is possible to add walker wheel extensions to a regular walker.
However, being able to convert a standard walker into one with wheels will depend on the type of walker you have, and what types of extensions can fit that model.
NOTE: Before purchasing wheel extensions, we recommend that you check manufacturer rules and guidelines regarding your walker’s weight capacity. Bariatric walkers are specifically built for larger people and have a wider base of support. This makes them a more stable solution than adding wheel extensions.
Also check the other specifications to ensure that the wheels will be a good fit for you. In some cases (for example, a walker frame that is all one piece), it isn’t possible to convert a frame to a walker with wheels.
Typically, walker wheel extensions are just standard-sized walker wheels that can be attached at the bottom of the two front legs.Be sure that the ones you buy feature adjustable legs so the walker can be sized to the correct height for your use after the wheels are added.
You also want to get wheels that are non-slip, as well as non-marking so you don’t leave unsightly scuff marks on your floors.
While it is best to buy a walker with wheels from the beginning, if you have a standard walker that needs to be transformed, know that it is still possible to upgrade it into a wheeled walker.
Using A Walker With Wheels
When using a walker with wheels, make sure you take it at your own pace. Always be sure all legs of the walker are touching the ground before taking steps, and read through the instructions set by the manufacturer.
Following all these guidelines will help ensure you’re using these mobility aids properly and staying safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are wheeled walkers safe?
Yes, wheeled walkers are safe when used as directed. Always be sure to read the instructions from the manufacturer before using one, and follow all safety guidelines.
Who should not use a rollator walker?
Walking aids such as rollators are not recommended for people with poor balance who are unable to walk without assistance, as they may cause falls. Always consult a healthcare professional before using a walking aid if you are unsure whether it is appropriate for you.
What size wheels are best for a rollator walker?
Somewhat larger wheels (e.g. 8 inches or more in diameter) may be best for use on pavement or other smooth surfaces, while smaller wheels (e.g. 6 inches in diameter) may be better for use on uneven terrain. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the appropriate wheel size for your walker.
Should walker wheels be on inside or outside?
Most walkers have the wheels installed on the outside of the frame, but some models may have the wheels on the inside. There is no right or wrong answer, but you should consult the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that the wheels are installed correctly.