Are you among the millions of people suffering from mobility issues or health problems that strain your daily activities? Walking aids like canes, walkers, and wheelchairs may seem daunting, but they can improve your quality of life.
Hidden away in garages or tucked away in closets, walking aids are often used as a last resort. A fierce sense of independence makes it hard to accept that we cannot do something due to physical limitations.
Using walking aids does not mean giving up on yourself. Instead, it means finding ways to remain mobile, independent and safe despite physical challenges.
What are walking aids?
Walking aids vary from walking sticks, crutches, frames or wheeled walkers. This ranges from the slightest support to the most support making them more stable. They come in all different shapes and sizes, so you are guaranteed to find one that suits you and your mobility needs.
Walking aids assist with keeping you mobile and participating in your everyday daily activities. They aim to assist people with improving their balance, walking pattern and safety while mobilising independently. They also help to transfer weight from the upper limb to the aid to reduce weight bearing through the lower limbs. This is essential post-surgery.
Who uses walking aids?
Typically it is people with an injury or health condition, people with disabilities, older adults at risk of falling, or people post–surgery who are recovering and need assistance.
Mobility aids can help anyone who has a temporary or long-term mobility problem. The individual’s needs will determine the type of mobility aid used.
Mobility aids may be helpful for people who have:
- Mobility aids benefit older adults, people who have had amputations, and those recovering from surgery.
- Walking impairment due to brain injury or stroke.
- Sprains and strains.
- Fractures or broken bones in the lower limbs.
- Difficulties maintaining balance.
- Injury to the legs, feet, or back.
- Developmental disabilities.
- Diabetic ulcers and wounds.
- Heart or lung issues.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Congenital disabilities.
- Visual impairment or blindness.
Mobility aid options
It is critical to select the type of mobility aid that is best suited to your needs. Remember that as you gain strength and independence, you may need to progress through different aids. Some of the most commonly prescribed options are as follows:
These devices are intended for use over short to medium distances and are made of a metal framework with four legs that provide stability and support.
Wheeled walkers allow you to advance the frame, which is especially useful if you have limited upper body strength.
A device for those who should not bear weight on their lower limbs or who are unable to walk. It can be propelled manually, by someone else, or by electricity.
They are used when you have both short-term and long-term injuries. The most common crutches are the axillary (underarm), forearm, and arthritic crutches.
This device helps to transfer the load from your legs to your upper body by supporting your weight. It takes less weight off your lower body and puts more pressure on your hands and wrists than crutches. It is also helpful for improving balance and stability.
These have a seat on top of three, four, or five wheels. Footplates support the feet, and there are handlebars or a steering wheel.
The benefits of walking aids are immense! Here are a few benefits that influence people both physically and mentally:
- Greater independence in life
- Reduce pain
- Decrease fatigue levels
- Increase confidence and self-esteem
- Decrease falls risk
- Increase physical activity and walking ability
- Improve balance
- Reduce load on lower limbs
- Increased ability to access the community, e.g. stairs, complex surfaces
- Increased quality of life
Physiotherapy assistance with walking aids
If you or someone you know would benefit from a walking aid, booking in with a physiotherapist is the first step. We can prescribe you the correct assistance to suit your walking needs.
We focus our assessment on looking at your everyday needs. We first look at your walking, balance, muscle strength, cognition, and then the cardiovascular, neurological and musculoskeletal systems, and ask about any comorbidities and the setup at home.
We provide education and training on how to use the walking aid, the benefits (as mentioned above), proper prescription and fitting the aid to suit your needs.
Final thoughts on the benefits of walking aids
Walking aids are a great way to increase your independence, reduce pain and fatigue levels, improve balance and walking ability, and ultimately improve your quality of life.
If you or someone you know would benefit from a walking aid, contact one of our physiotherapists to get the correct assistance and training.