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The Side Effects Of Using A Cane

A senior woman walks down a sunny sidewalk. She is using a cane.

Using a cane can reduce pain, allow you to recover by reducing weight on the affected area, and help you walk if you struggle to do so independently.

Improper use or overuse of a cane can cause certain side effects, including wrist and hand pain, stumbling, carpal tunnel, back, neck, and arm pain, along with blisters and hand numbness.

Let’s take a further look into each side effect.

Wrist And Hand Pain

You need to use your cane on the proper side of your body. Incorrect cane use will put a lot of reliance on your wrists and hands.

You might bend your wrist too far (you should only slightly crease it), which will lead to pain, numbness, and possible joint issues.

You could cause hand pain if you don’t size your cane properly. Long hours spent gripping the cane can also leave your hand muscles stiff and sore.

A foam cover might reduce this pain, as could a cane sized for your hand with an ergonomic grip. 

Stumbling

Walking with a cane takes some getting used to. You might be likelier to trip and stumble as you learn.

Even once you master the basics of walking, figuring out how to ascend and descend stairs will pose another challenge. 

You could also face difficult encounters in your day-to-day life, such as slick terrain, hilly terrain, elevators, and escalators. 

Stumbling while using a cane can cause you to fall.

You’ll only exacerbate your pain if you land on an injured or weak side, and you could develop new injuries too. 

Carpal Tunnel 

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs due to repetitive hand and wrist movements, and walking with a cane certainly qualifies.

However, you’d have to use a cane for a long time before carpal tunnel syndromes would become apparent.

Others who use a cane might not develop carpal tunnel but wrist muscle soreness and fatigue.

Reducing reliance on a cane will help with the pain, but then the question becomes – how else can you get around? 

Back Pain

Back pain from cane use is a trademark of improper cane height.

You might initially find it easier to walk when you set the cane too low (provided yours is adjustable), but you’ll strain your back with each step.

Eventually, you’ll wake up with an aching back that only feels worse when using the cane. Fortunately, properly sizing your cane to your height can eliminate this back pain. 

Arm Pain

The pain from using a cane can affect more than your hands and wrists.

Your arms could also experience stiffness and joint aches from improper use or overreliance on one side of your body when using a cane. 

Neck Pain

A cane height set too low can hurt your back, but you’re likely to feel neck pain if the height is too high. 

You’ll naturally crunch your shoulders up as you walk to accommodate for the additional height, straining the collarbone and/or neck.

Neck pain can make it difficult to turn your head.  

Blisters

Frequent cane use can cause blisters, as can walking outside with a cane on a hot day due to the extra friction. Y

ou might consider a foam cover for your cane, as mentioned earlier, to alleviate the discomfort.

A cane appropriate for your size will prevent you from gripping too hard, which will also spare your palms from painful blisters. 

Hand Numbness

You might notice that individual fingers or the palm of your hand go numb when walking with a cane for long enough.

This is also caused by a lack of padding, or it could be a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome.

How To Reduce The Chances Of Problems Related To Cane Use

1) To reduce the chances of experiencing painful side effects from using a cane, you should ensure the cane is the correct height, as an improperly sized cane can lead to strain and discomfort.

2) It’s also crucial to use the cane on the side opposite the injury or weaker leg to properly distribute weight and improve balance.

3) Engaging in exercises to strengthen the upper body can also help, as it improves posture and reduces reliance on the cane.

4) Additionally, regularly checking the cane’s tip for wear and replacing it as necessary can prevent slips and falls.

For specific techniques and exercises, consulting with a healthcare professional or a physical therapist is recommended.

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