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Healthcare

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Choose the right walking aid

From walking sticks to wheelchairs, find the walking aid to help you get about more easily

26th August 2013

Whether you want to move around your home more confidently, or go out shopping or in the car, there is a wide choice of aids to keep you mobile.

 

 

A walking stick

If you are mobile but sometimes feel unsteady or have a slight weakness on one side, a walking stick can give you extra confidence. There are many different types to try, from traditional wooden ones to lightweight folding models and lacquered styles in fashionable colours. More modern walking sticks are height-adjustable, so you can make sure yours fits you exactly.

Handle designs also vary, from round shepherd’s crooks to handlebar grips. If you have stiff or painful hands, an ergonomically designed handle can help distribute your weight more evenly. Some models of walking stick fold out into a seat on a tripod – ideal for having a quick rest while you’re out.

 

A crutch

Crutches are designed to take the weight off one leg and can be used either in the short term, while recovering from surgery or injury, or if you have long-term weakness or immobility in your leg. Underarm crutches fit under your arm, while elbow crutches have an angled handle that supports your forearm. Most people use crutches when prescribed by a healthcare professional, so it’s important to follow advice on which type to use.

 

A rollator

A rollator offers more support than a walking stick or crutch, and allows you to move more quickly than using a walking frame, which you have to lift before you move. You can lean on a rollator with both hands and push it forward on three or four wheels, using the handle-mounted brakes if you need to. Three-wheel rollators tend to be more lightweight and easier to fold away and store than four-wheel models; they are also often smaller, so more convenient to use indoors. However, some four-wheel models are just as versatile so it’s a matter of personal choice.

You can also find four-wheel rollators that can be used on rough surfaces or support very heavy weights. Some models incorporate a seat, so that you can rest or have someone push you if you get tired. Rollators are useful when you need to carry things from room to room or when you’re out shopping as they can store a bag, basket or tray.

 

A walking frame

A walking frame offers more support than a rollator because the four legs surround you and you lean your weight fully on the frame. With a rollator, you hold onto handlebar-style grips and push the wheeled frame forwards. A walking frame is very safe for slow, steady walking, as long as you are strong enough to lift or shuffle the frame forwards. Most models are made of extruded aluminium, so they are very light, and some have two wheels mounted on the front legs for a slightly smoother ride.

You can buy narrow frames that are suitable for indoor use, or extra-wide ones for people who are very heavy. Many models also fold away, to save space when not in use or to stow in the car. Walking frames are generally low maintenance, although you should check the ferrules for wear regularly. It’s important to choose a frame that’s the right height for you, so you don’t slouch or strain your back.

Look for height-adjustable legs, and, if you need extra support, for models that have vertical handgrips and a padded rest for your forearms.

 

A wheelchair

If you have trouble walking short distances and have some help, a wheelchair could be the ideal solution. You can buy transit models that aren’t designed for long-term use, but are portable and lightweight, so you can pack them up in a car and take them with you when you go shopping or out for the day.

Lightweight wheelchairs are available in self-propelled or assisted versions, but even if you don’t plan to propel yourself, self-propelled chairs can be easier to push.

 

Mix and match

The best way to work out which walking aid is right for you is to think through your day, the different activities you do and the places you like to go. You may find that you need more than one type of aid, such as a walking frame for indoors and a lightweight wheelchair for outdoors, and so on.

It’s best to take professional advice from an occupational therapist on the equipment that will suit you – and bear in mind that your needs may change over time so you will need to review them.

 

We also recommend:

  • Choosing a wheelchair
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