Discharge Instructions: Using a Cane

Your healthcare provider has advised you to use a cane. This can help you with balance as you regain strength and mobility after surgery, illness, or injury. Many different kinds of canes are available. Some have only 1 tip. Others have 4 tips to aid balance. Here are some general guidelines for using a cane.

Making changes in your home

  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need handy. Keep everything else out of the way.

  • Remove things that may cause you to fall, such as throw rugs or electrical cords.

  • Use nonslip bath mats, grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, and a shower chair in your bathroom.

Getting ready to use a cane

  • Keep your hands free by using a backpack, fanny pack, apron, or pockets to carry things.

  • Hold the cane on your stronger (or uninjured) side unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.

  • Standing up straight, check to see that the top of your cane reaches the crease in your wrist. When you hold your cane, your elbow should bend a bit.

  • Place a nonskid rubber tip on the end of the cane to prevent slipping. (If your cane has 4 tips, put a rubber tip on each tip.) Change the tip(s) when worn.

  • Be sure to tell your healthcare provider or physical therapist if your cane doesn’t feel right. He or she can check the proper fit and make sure you are using your cane properly.

Walking with your cane

  • Keep the cane away from your feet so that you don’t trip.

  • Walk carefully. 

  • Start walking by positioning your cane about one small step ahead of you; then step off on your injured side. Finish the step with your healthy leg.

  • Learn the proper way to climb stairs. Place your cane in the hand opposite your injured (or weaker) side. If possible, grasp a handrail with the free hand. Then move the weaker leg, along with the cane, to the same step. Move slowly, one step at a time.

  • To come down stairs, put your free hand on the handrail and place the cane on the first step down. Bring your weak leg down to the first step, then move the stronger leg to the same step.

  • Remember: Up with the good leg and down with the bad.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these:

  • Increased weakness or dizziness

  • Loss of balance or falls

  • Symptoms that caused you to need the cane came back or worsened