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Using a Cane


A cane can help you walk when you have an injured hip, leg, knee, or foot. You may also use it if you have a weak leg or problems with your balance. The length of the cane is important. Your elbow should have only a slight bend when you lean on the cane.

Being safe

A walking aid—a walker, crutches, or a cane—helps if you have limited strength, range of motion, joint stability, coordination, or endurance. Using a walking aid can help you be more stable, safe, and independent in your daily activities. It can also reduce the stress on a painful joint or limb.

Here are some ideas to make using your walking aid easier and safer.

  • While walking, look straight ahead, not down at your feet.
  • Clear away small rugs, cords, or anything else that could cause you to trip, slip, or fall.
  • Be very careful around pets and small children.

    They can be unpredictable and get in your path when you least expect it.

  • Keep the rubber tips on your walking aid clean and in good condition.

    This helps prevent slipping. You can buy replacement tips from medical supply stores and drugstores. Ice tips are also available to use outdoors in winter weather.

  • Avoid slick conditions or areas.

    Be careful with wet floors and snowy or icy driveways. In bad weather, be especially careful on curbs and steps.

  • Don't rely only on your walking aid to help you stand up or sit down.

    Put one or both hands on the surface you're sitting on or on the arms of the chair as you sit down or stand up.

  • Always place your walking aid where it won't fall and where you can reach it easily.
  • Lead with the correct leg when you go up or down stairs or a curb.
    • When you go up stairs or a curb, always use your strong or uninjured leg to take the first step.
    • When you go back down, step with your weak or injured leg first.
    • Remember "Up with the good, and down with the bad" to help you lead with the correct leg.
  • Ask your doctor or physical therapist if it's okay to use your walking aid on the stairs.

    If it is okay, have them show you how to do it correctly.

  • Ask for help if you feel unsure about going up and, especially, down stairs.

How to use a cane

Hold the cane correctly.

Holding a cane.
slide 1 of 6
slide 1 of 6, Hold the cane correctly.,
  1. Hold the cane in the hand opposite your weak or injured leg. So if your right leg is weak, hold the cane in your left hand.

  2. Set the cane about 4 inches to the side of your strong leg when you are standing still.

Learn how to walk safely.

Walking with a cane.
slide 2 of 6
slide 2 of 6, Learn how to walk safely.,
  1. Put your weight on your strong leg. Move the cane several inches forward while moving your weak leg forward.

  2. Put weight on your cane to limit the weight on your weak leg, and move your strong leg forward. Stand up straight as you do this. Do not let your body lean.

  3. Move your cane about 4 inches in front of you, and start your next step.

  4. Take small steps.

  5. Use ramps and elevators when you can.

Sit down safely.

Sitting with a cane.
slide 3 of 6
slide 3 of 6, Sit down safely.,
  1. To sit, back up to the chair. Touch the back of your legs to the chair.

  2. Set the cane aside where you can reach it and it won't fall over.

  3. Support most of your weight on your strong leg, and reach back for the arms of the chair.

  4. Slowly and carefully lower yourself into the chair.

Stand up safely.

Getting up from a chair with a cane.
slide 4 of 6
slide 4 of 6, Stand up safely.,
  1. To get up from a chair, first make sure your cane is close by so you can grab it when you stand up.

  2. Grab the arms of the chair, and move your weak leg slightly forward.

  3. Scoot forward in the chair until your rear end is near the front of the seat.

  4. Lean forward so your head is above your strong foot.

  5. With your weight mostly on your strong leg, hold both arms of the chair and push yourself up out of the chair.

  6. Grab your cane and set it about 4 inches to the side of your strong leg.

Go up stairs safely.

Going up stairs with a cane.
slide 5 of 6
slide 5 of 6, Go up stairs safely.,

Try this first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.

  1. To go up stairs, step up with your strong leg.

  2. Bring the cane and your weak leg to the step.

  3. Use a handrail if there is one.

Go down stairs safely.

Going down stairs with a cane.
slide 6 of 6
slide 6 of 6, Go down stairs safely.,

Try this first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.

  1. To go down stairs, put your cane and weak leg on the lower step.

  2. Bring your strong leg to the lower step. This saying may help you remember: "Up with the good, down with the bad."


Current as of: July 17, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.