Canes

Canes
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Canes

Canes are used by more than 4 million Americans with mobility disabilities and functional limitations. A properly fitted cane supports up to 25% of a user’s weight, providing support and improving balance. Unfortunately, canes are often poorly fitted because they are selected without the guidance of a physical therapist or another medical professional. Canes are a factor in falls when they are inappropriate for a user’s grip, height and weight, and when they are inappropriately handled. Following a fall, fractures of the hip and pelvis are the most common serious injuries. Approximately one out of four falls result in hospitalization.

The design of a walking cane is an important factor in its safe use. The impact of design varies with the characteristics of the user, the environment in which the cane is used, and the type of disability. A heavy cane, for example, can cause a fall in one user and protect another user from a fall. A cane with a multi-legged, wide base offers more stability, but may be difficult or impossible to safely use in an environment with stairs. Research documents the usefulness of canes for people with hemiplegic gait following stroke, yet recent research suggests that one of two standard cane designs may be preferable. The research of Yong-Jun Cha, Ph.D.,published July 16, 2014 online in the "Disability and Health Journal", suggests that longer canes may improve walking when they are designed to reach the trochanter of the femur (hip) rather than the wrist crease. The improvement is attributed to the cane shifting the user's weight from the affected leg to the unaffected leg.

Advances in design have resulted in canes that offer comfort and convenience as well security. For example, tips at the end of a cane will increase traction and also cushion the user's hand by absorbing shock. Forearm cuffs remove weight from the wrists and hands without limiting the user's control of the cane. Similarly, wrist straps decrease the chances of a misplaced cane while the user retains full control. Tripod seats facilitate variations in position, and canes are now designed with can holders in case a user wants a drink while seated!

Technology has influenced the kinds of canes that are available. Aluminum has largely replaced the heavier wood of traditional cane shafts because it is a lighter material. Recent advances in technology have led to carbon fiber cane shafts. Canes that are crafted from carbon fiber usually weigh one pound or less and are very durable.
 
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