Choosing the perfect mobility aid to support your daily life, be it a walking stick or crutches, can be an overwhelming process. Having personally used a wheelchair, crutches and walking sticks since my injury in 2005, there are a few steps I've found helpful to support the right decision when it comes to mobility aids.
Step 1 - Do I need a mobility aid?
First and foremost, it can be tough to know timing wise when a little support from a walking stick or crutches may be right. This decision largely relies on an assessment of your medical health, daily activity, confidence and above all happiness.
Some of the below signs may indicate that you would benefit from the extra support and comfort a walking stick, cane, crutches or combination of all:
- Pain when standing or walking
- Feeling dizzy when standing up either from a seated position or if you have to stand for a period of time
- Exhaustion or fatigue after standing or walking for short periods
- Fear of unknown or different terrains, for example walking in the countryside vs. on a pavement
- Reluctance to go places based on the amount of walking or standing that may be involved
If you feel the above does match how you feel, then it may be that a mobility aid would help alleviate these symptoms and feelings.
Step 2 - Which mobility aid is best?
The very first thing to consider at this stage is your health. If you only have minor problems standing and walking it may well be a walking stick or crutches are the best option. However, if walking or standing is something you find gives you pain or anxiety it is at this point you will need a medical examination to determine you are safe and best suited to using a mobility aid and also to check whether a walker, wheelchair or rollator may be a better support and fit for you.
In all instances we would always recommend seeking advice from a medical professional be it a doctor, physio or otherwise.
Step 3 - Should I choose a walking stick, crutch or crutches?
Your medical condition, injury or disability should be the leading factor in your decision.
Visiting your GP or local hospital would be our first recommendation because they will not only advise the best choice but they will often lend you a hospital standard walking stick or crutch to try out.
I personally find a crutch to be my mobility aid of choice, if I was only going to have one aid it would be a crutch or crutches. I have varying levels of mobility so a good day can look very different to a bad day. I live with partial paralysis (limited movement and feeling) from my waist down, with my left side being substantially weaker than my right. As a result I have numbness, pain, random muscle cramping, spasms and a drop foot on my left side. For this reason I know a crutch will provide comfort, support and most importantly, confidence in any eventuality whereas a walking stick only really works for me on a good day.
With this in mind my recommendation would be to invest in the mobility aid which is going to support you on your worst days as a starting point, with the option to add to this as you gain strength & confidence. As always, please consult your doctor, physiotherapist, occupational therapist or closest medical professional before you make your choice.
Once you have decided between a crutch or walking stick you then have the added bonus of choosing a style within these.
Step 4 - Which walking stick is best?
Choosing a walking stick can be overwhelming, there is an enormous range of choice available. Whatever your condition, we would ALWAYS advise checking they have a CE mark, this will confirm they have been properly tested and certified to be safe for medical use.
As well as a CE mark you will also want to consider the handle and whether the walking stick is height adjustable. Height adjustment is key if you wear different height shoes for example, to make sure despite your shoe height, your walking stick can be adjusted to ensure your gait and joints are stable, protected and pain is minimised, whatever your shoes. Many more aesthetically focused walking sticks such as handmade acrylic or wooden walking sticks are cut to size so fixed and therefore don't allow for a variation in height day to day.
All of our range are CE marked, height adjustable and designed for long term medical use but with the added bonus they come in a range of fun styles and prints.
Below is a little breakdown of the different styles of handle with height adjustment info also:
Crook / Swan handle walking Sticks
Traditional shepherds crook style curved handle, often made of wood, lucite or acrylic - interchangeable between left and right hands. Fixed height (not adjustable).
Fischer / Ergonomic handle walking sticks
Specifically designed to be moulded to a left and right hand (our Cool Walking Sticks are designed in this way) to maximise comfort and banish blisters. Height adjustable.
Straight handle walking sticks
The simplest style, interchangeable between left and right hands, more likely to cause blisters with sustained use. Height adjustable.
Step 5 - Which Crutches are best?
If like me, balance and pain management are your main concerns then a crutch or crutches may be a better option than a walking stick. The benefits of using crutches are that they will support your weight whilst also relieving pressure on your lower back as well as your leg or legs.
I suffer from back pain, leg spasms and minimal movement or feeling in my left leg and foot. A crutch for me is the ideal anchor to support every day movement, I feel confident using it and would definitely recommend to anyone unsure of whether a walking stick or crutch is right for them.
There are a two main types of crutches to choose from:
Underarm or Axillary Crutches
These are very popular still in the US, whilst they are known for being relatively easy to master, they have also been criticised for causing pain in the upper body such as shoulders, wrists and arms. Improper use has also been linked to axillary nerve disfunction.
Forearm or Elbow Crutches
Popular in Europe, Australia and Canada. These are known for being comfortable to use and better suited to uneven terrain as well as stairs. They have also been praised for encouraging proper posture and minimising upper body strain and pain as a result. Cool Crutches are all forearm crutches.
Whether you decide to try crutches or a walking stick, there are a few DOs and DON'Ts which may help to make the decision a little easier:
DO pick a walking stick or crutches which are height adjustable - for example whilst traditional wooden, lucite or acrylic walking sticks may look great, the fixed height will mean even a slight change in shoe height could impact your gait, pain levels and overall comfort.
DO pick the stick that feels most comfortable - having an adjustable stick is KEY but as well as the height being adjustable, ensuring the handle is comfortable and the ferrule (rubber bung on the bottom) is cushioned will also maximise the comfort factor.
DON'T hold your crutch, walking stick or cane on your weaker side - for example if like me your left leg is where you have weakness, using your stick on your right side will provide the best support. Ensuring you have your cane in the opposite hand to the affected lower limb be it hip, knee, leg, ankle or foot and stepping forward with that hand at the same time as the weaker lower limb will ensure the most balanced and stable gait is maintained.
DO consult your doctor, physio or preferred medical professional to ensure you have chosen the right assistive device for you and that it is correctly fitted to you.
We have worked with thousands of customers to ensure they make an informed decision when buying either a walking stick or crutches from us, whether you're living with a long term condition or disability such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Arthritis, Ostearthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Amputee, Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Injury or otherwise, we are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
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