Tips for Walker Use

There Is a Right Way and Wrong Way to Use Your Walker

How to use your walker. Getty Images Credit: shapecharge

People with osteoarthritis often require mobility aids (canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters) to compensate for painful joints or joints with limited range of motion. Mobility aids add stability and improve balance -- if used properly.​

Interestingly, I have a couple of relatives who use walkers and both seem somewhat slouched or bent over as they walk with their walker. I see others when I'm in stores, doctor's offices, restaurants who don't seem to be entirely comfortable with their walker. I would say I actually witness more inappropriate walker use than appropriate walker use. What should they be doing differently? What should you do to be certain you are using your walker correctly?

Walker Use - Start With the Right Height

First, you have to consider the various available models of walkers. Do you want rubber grips, rubber tips, wheels, hand brakes, accessories? Lightweight or heavyweight? The only way to know for sure is to go to a medical supply store and see for yourself.

Once you have selected the model of walker you want, the "fit" of the walker becomes important. When holding on to your walker, your elbows should be bent in a position that feels comfortable and natural. The top of your walker should be even with the crease on the underside of your wrist, after relaxing your arms at your side. Walkers that are too low cause you to stoop over while you walk and not use proper body mechanics. If your walker is at the wrong height, the improper position will surely cause aches and pains.

Getting Up From a Chair

Be safe in all your movements as you prepare to use your walker. If you are sitting, put the walker in front of the chair. Move forward in your chair, place your hands on the arms of the chair and push up. Switch your hands to the grips on your walker. Stand for a minute or so to be sure you feel stable and balanced.

Walking With Your Walker

When you are ready to start walking, push the walker slightly ahead of you, then step into the walker. Keep that pattern going -- walker slightly ahead, then step into the walker. The key point is that you should never have the walker too far ahead of you and you should have excellent posture as you take your steps. Also, don't look at your feet -- look in front of you.

If you have trouble gripping the walker, platform walkers are available may prove to be a better option. They are not exactly attractive contraptions but they serve a purpose. The platform allows you to rest your elbow and forearm, taking stress off your hands.

Sitting With Your Walker

If you are ready to sit down after walking with your walker, stand with your back to the chair. Touch the back of your legs to the chair so you know you are close enough to sit down. Slide your weaker leg forward as you shift weight to your stronger leg. Switch your hands from the walker to the arms on the chair. Then sit down slowly.

Bottom Line

Choosing the right walker, having the walker adjusted properly for you, following safety precautions with every move you make, and keeping your path clear of throw rugs, cords, and clutter are all essential for safe walker use. Always be mindful of those things that assure safe walker use.

It's also important that you only use a walker that has been chosen and adjusted for you. If you borrow a walker from a friend or family member, it isn't sized or adjusted for you, so you risk injury. An occupational therapist, physical therapist, or physical medicine and rehabilitation provider can offer the best training in walker use.​​

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Article Sources
  • How to Choose and Use a Walker. Consumer Information.