If you begin to have difficulty walking it is time to start looking at disability walking aids; this can be a momentous decision in anyone’s life. There are many walking aids you can look at, and there are many types. The first thing you need to decide is, do you need a walking stick or a crutch?
Here are a few things to think about before you buy
Types of walking sticks.
There are many types of walking sticks out there, but which one is right for you? The things you need to consider include:
- What design of handle do you need?
- Material do you want it made from?
- What other features do you want?
The handle of you walking stick is an integral part of the walking stick for your use and here are some of the more common types to look at.
- Tourist, crook or hook – This is the handle most commonly associated with a walking stick, and the oldest design. It is an inverted ‘J’ which can be used in either hand and can be hung over the arm when not in use.
- Fritz and Derby – Both the Fritz and Derby are open-ended, almost straight handles which can be used in either hand. People with arthritis, or sensitive hands many prefer these handle as fingers have more space to move.
- Ergonomic and Fischer. These are sometimes referred to as comfort grip, due to their shape. They increase the ease of the grip for the user which is very important for users with disabilities which also involve their hands or wrists and better spread the load from the user into the stick itself. You need to buy the left or right-handed walking stick.
The two most common types of walking stick material are, most obviously, wood and aluminium. Wooden walking sticks are usually ash, cherry or oak as they are beautiful to look at and very strong. However, there are rarer types of wood from all over the world, and you can find some beautiful wooden sticks. Aluminium is a newer, and lighter, type of stick and there are a lot of different coloured and patterned ones on the market.
Walking sticks have lots of other features to consider too. Do you want to be able to fold it when it is not in use? How about adjusting it to the right size? Do you need a shooting stick, which turns into a one-legged perch, or a folding chair to rest a while? What about an umbrella stick for days out? The choice is endless. You can get decorative walking sticks made to match your outfit, and you can even combine two features such as an adjustable folding walking stick.
You can have them handmade, to your specifications or buy them as a premade standard issue, and you can also purchase specialised walking sticks such as extra long or extra short.
Types of crutches
Again there are many types of crutches, and again you can have them made of wood or aluminium. The styles are very different though and depend on the support you need. Again you can have different colours and patterns on the aluminium ones.
- Underarm or axillary crutch – Underarm or axilla crutches are used by putting the pad beneath the armpit and against the ribs and holding the grip. They are used to provide support for patients who have a temporary limitation on walking. Often with underarm crutches, some kind of soft pad is used to reduce armpit injury.
- Forearm or elbow crutch – A forearm or elbow crutch (also commonly has a cuff at the top which goes around the forearm. This cuff is usually made of plastic or metal and can be half or full circle. You use it by inserting the arm into the cuff and hold onto the grip.
- Forearm crutches are the most common type used in Europe, whether it is for the long or short term. In other parts of the world, forearm crutches are more likely to be used by people with long-term disabilities, and axillary crutches more often used for short-term disabilities.
- Platform – These are not as common and used by people with reduced hand grip due to cerebral palsy, arthritis, or other conditions. The arm is strapped on a level platform, and the hand rests on a grip which, can be angled to a comfortable position for the person using it.
- Leg support – These unusual crutches are for people with an injury or disability affecting one lower leg only. The affected leg is strapped into a frame that holds the lower part of the leg off the ground while transferring the load from the ground to the user’s knee or thigh. This style of crutch has the advantage of not using the hands or arms while walking. A possible benefit is that upper thigh weakening is reduced due to the affected leg remaining in use. These crutch designs are unusable if you have a thigh, pelvic or hip injury and you should check with your physiotherapist before purchasing if you have a knee injury.
Buying a walking stick or crutch, especially your first walking stick or crutch, can be a confusing, and sometimes intimidating process. Many people do not want their first walking aid as they do not want to look disabled, even though they are. A walking stick or crutch is only a disability walking aid and will most likely slow down the progression of most injuries and help cure many, so you don’t have to fear buying one. It is to get you from ‘A’ to ‘B’ like a car, only buying a new walking aid is much cheaper but a lot less exciting.