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Tip For Seniors: Which Side Do You Use A Cane On?

An elderly lady walks along a sidewalk, using a cane.

You should use a cane to support the side that needs it. If your left leg was weak, for instance, you would hold the cane with your right hand.

The reason you use a cane on the opposite side of your condition or injury is to reduce body weight on the injured side. This will help reduce side effects and pain from improper use. 

This is because the point of a cane is to provide support to your weak side.

For example, let’s say you have sciatica, and it affects your right side more than your left. You’ve decided to use a cane to help regulate the pain and discomfort.

In this case, you do not hold the cane on your right side. Instead, you hold it on your left. 

Do You Hold A Cane In Your Dominant Or Non-Dominant Hand?

You now know you should use a cane to support your weaker side, but which hand do you hold it in?

That depends on how you’re using the cane.

Continuing the injury example from the last section, you should use a cane on the side opposite of whichever side is injured, regardless of your hand orientation.

In other words, you should carry the cane in your left hand if your right side is injured even if you’re a rightie. 

In that situation, it’s not about hand dominance. Instead, it’s about bracing the injured side.

However, some seniors use a cane for mobility rather than to brace an injury. In that case, you can choose which hand you use when moving with the cane.

You should hold the cane with your dominant hand to feel comfortable and secure walking with the cane.

Read our article, Why Does My Arm Hurt When I Walk With A Cane?

Which Leg Goes First When Using A Cane?

You’ve got your cane and now you’re ready to take a step forward. Which leg do you use first? 

Once again, it depends on whether you’re injured or using a cane for stability. 

When injured, you should use your good leg predominantly for walking, then follow through with your injured leg. If you have a stronger versus weaker leg, rely on your stronger leg more. 

The exception is if you’re descending stairs. In that case, use your cane first, then follow through with the weaker leg, then use your stronger leg to keep you balanced. Take it slow on the stairs.

What Is The Correct Way to Walk With A Cane For Balance? 

Balance is one of the top reasons seniors use a cane. How do you walk with a cane when using it to support your body and not for injury?

Let’s review the steps.

Step 1 – Hold The Cane

Hold the cane in your dominant hand if you have no pain, and in the hand opposite the support side if you do.

Bend your elbow slightly and crease your wrist. Wrap your fingers firmly around the handle. This is how to properly hold a cane.

Step 2 – Begin To Walk

With the cane in hand, place it roughly two inches in front of your leg. Move the weak leg until it’s aligned with the cane.

Your foot and the cane should touch the ground simultaneously. Follow through and step with your stronger leg.  

Continue walking following this cadence. It’s awkward at first, but you must think of your cane as an extension of your leg, not an extra appendage.

Ask an adult child or caregiver to walk with you until you adjust to keep you steady. 

Step 3 – Lean On The Cane

You can rely on your cane to support you when needed. You may lean on it after every step or after every couple.

When leaning on the cane, the foot furthest from it should be parallel to the place where the cane is on the ground.

This places the cane within your center of gravity. Putting the point of the cane in front of your body will not allow it to keep you upright. You’ll fall back instead. 

When the cane is too far behind your body, it doesn’t provide enough support to prevent a fall.

Final Thoughts

Science Daily reports that at least 16 percent of American seniors use a cane. Properly sizing your cane is critical to walking safely, as is positioning the cane on the side of your body that needs it more when you aren’t walking for balance.  

We hope this information helps you enjoy more mobility with a cane. 

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