Teaching how to use a cane correctly increases patient safety | OTflourish.com

How to Use a Cane: 8 BEST Tips & Accessories

How to use a cane – seems pretty simple, right? Have you ever watched the show “House” with Hugh Laurie as the infamous Dr. House and cringe as he walks down the hall with his cane that is not in the right hand or even the right height?

Ok, maybe not…but I sure do!

I am going to walk you through the basics on how to use a cane for walking, how to adjust it and which ones I like the best. I also have a video at the end of this post demonstrating exactly what this all looks like.


Are you recommending and instructing using a cane correctly? Check out this article and video for full details! | OTflourish.com #geriatricOT

How Tall Should a Cane Be?

I fully recommend using an adjustable cane. Unless you can find a straight cane that is the perfect height or have one that you can cut off the bottom, having it the perfect height prevents lots of other problems such as back and shoulder pain and falls!

There are a lot of resources that state that you should hold your cane with a 25 degree bend in the elbow…but really…what does that even mean?

I like to do a quick height test. Stand up as straight as you can and place the cane at your side. Is the top of the cane at the height of your wrist? If not, it needs to be adjusted. If it is too high, hitting your forearm, lower it down. If it is too low, touching your fingers, raise it up.

By adjusting it to your wrist level, it brings the height to the recommended 25 degree bend in the elbow, but without measuring or cracking out your 10th grade geometry!

Do You Hold a Cane on the Weak or Strong Side?

It seems absolutely backward, but you must hold the cane in the hand on the opposite side of your weak leg. A quick way to decide which is weaker, is hold onto the railing and step up on a stair with your right leg. Pay attention to how difficult this is. Secondly, hold on the railing and step up on a stair with your left leg.

Which is harder?

If you decide your left leg is weaker after the stair test, hold the cane in your right hand. If you decide your right leg is weaker after the stair test, hold the cane in your left hand. Using a cane in the opposite hand is basically taking the slack for weaker leg.

How to Use a Cane

So you are off to a great start!

Right height? CHECK!

In the right hand? CHECK!

On to how to use a cane… Since you are using the cane in the opposite hand of your weak leg, you want to make sure that when you step with that weaker leg, you are also bringing the cane forward at the same time. The cane is acting like a 3rd leg and compensating for that weakness. Then step through with your stronger leg.


Video on How to Use a Cane for Walking

What do I Look for in a Cane?

As long as it fits the above criteria, it is more a manner of preference as how you use a cane is more important than the helpful bells and whistles.

  • Some fold up for easy storage or put in a purse.
  • Some are basic and some are patterned, colored, sparkly and show off your unique personality.
  • Some are aluminum and some are beautiful cherry wood.
  • The list goes on!

Make sure the base of the cane is 1-2″ wide and has a rubber stopper for traction. Ones that have a bigger handle are going to be easier if you have any type of hand pain or arthritis. Most have a weight capacity of 250-300 lbs and anything above that, a bariatric cane would be necessary.

There are a number of accessories that are also great like tips that hold a cane upright, ice grips for winter seasons, cane holders and hand loops.

Where Can I Get a Cane?

Good news is that canes are easily accessible! You can pick them up at places such as Walmart or Target, most pharmacies also have an adaptive equipment section. Thrift shops, local equipment rental closets. Facebook groups and marketplace is another great place to find one.

Here are a couple of my favorites, check them out:

Designer Single Straight Point Cane – This cane is basic, has a nice foam handle, is adjustable and gets the job done, plus it comes in a lot of fun colors and designs! Flowers, camo or even Vegas themed! I am particularly partial to the spotted print 🙂

Screenshot 2024 06 17 at 1.29.57 PM

Folding Cane with Glow Gel Grip Handle – Not only is it collapsable, but it glows in the dark, which is helpful when crossing the street at night, dark corner or even finding it on your way out of a movie theater!

Foldable glow handle cane!

Derby Fashion Cane – It’s very well made with beautiful cherry wood. It is definitely a fashion statement. It’s classy and I love it!

classy derby cane - so classy! OTflourish.com

Some Useful Accessories:

5 Prong Ice Grip Attachment – These work great in icy conditions and you can pop them on and off for fast, easy transitions from inside to outside.

Screenshot 2024 06 17 at 1.39.26 PM

Cane Hand Loops – These are super helpful if you feel like your grip is not up to par and are worried about dropping your cane – they help keep it right where you need it.

adding a strap to your cane helps if dropped often

Self Standing Cane Tips – These allow you to keep your cane upright when you are not holding it – no need to find somewhere to hang it up.

cane tips give extra stability

Cane Replacement Tips – You can always replace the rubber tip of a cane instead of having to buy a completely new one after they are worn out.

replace those cane tips after they are worn out to increase safety in functional mobility!

Canes height, safety features and correct use all help keep you safe when learning how to use a cane when walking.

Looking into using a walker instead? Check out Walking Aids: How to Use a Walker Correctly, where I go over height, use and best types of walkers.

Interested in purchasing some of the items that OT Flourish loves? Help us out! If you click on any of the above links and make a purchase, it doesn’t cost you anything extra and a small portion of the sale helps support this site. We appreciate it!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Join us!

    Not feeling confident working with older adults in your OT practice? If you are new to working in SNF or Home Health, we are here to level up your practice! Join the OT Accelerator today! | OTflourish.com/membership
  • Learn👇 how to write OT goals that WON’T be denied & make treatment planning easier!

    Occupational therapy Goal Writing & Goal Bank Guide ebook teaches you the step-by-step approach to writing rock solid COAST goals & practical tips for goal setting in an easy color coded format with outcome measure examples & a goal bank of LTG and STGs. | OTflourish.com
  • Medbridge promo code: FLOURISH for $150 off unlimited CEUs

    Medbridge Promo code: FLOURISH for $150 off unlimited CEUs | OTflourish.com
  • OccupationalTherapy.com promo code: FLOURISH13 & get 1 extra month FREE of unlimited CEUs

    OccupationalTherapy.com promo code: FLOURISH13 & get 1 extra month FREE of unlimited CEUs
  • Share