There are a myriad of unpleasant reasons a person may need to use a walker: broken bones, balance issues, joint issues, you name it. The good news is that there are also a myriad of different kinds of walkers to choose from that will accommodate your needs and make getting around easier and more comfortable!
Common types of walkers include:
- The standard walker. This is a four-legged walker with rubber tips for traction and stability. Unlike wheeled walkers, this one must be lifted to move.
- The two-wheeled walker. This walker has wheels on the two front legs and is better for those who need a little weight-bearing help.
- The three-wheeled walker. Providing the same support of balance as a four-wheeled walker, the three-wheeled walker is lighter and easier to maneuver.
- The four-wheeled walker. For those who don’t need to actually lean on the walker for balance.
- The knee walker. Mainly used for people with foot and ankle injuries, this walker is foot-propelled and has a platform to rest the knee.
Choosing the type of walker that is right for you includes considering options for hand grips as well. There are many choices to accommodate the different needs associated with how often the walker will be used, and why. The right grip can make a big difference when it comes to stress on your joints and stability of the walker.
Soft grip covers or foam covers are a popular choice because they’re usually more comfortable than plastic grips. This helps especially for sweaty hands.
The size of the grips can impact those with joint pain, arthritis, or nerve problems in the fingers. If you have a difficult time grasping with your fingers, a larger grip may ease discomfort.
Once you’ve chosen the type and grip, having the walker “fitted” to accommodate your height and physical needs is essential for limiting shoulder and back strain.
To measure the walker for your height:
- Measure your elbow bend. Step inside the walker, keep your shoulders relaxed and grip the handles. While in a relaxed grip, your elbows should bend at about an angle of 15 degrees comfortably.
- Measure your wrist height. Relax your arms at your sides while standing inside the walker. The top of the walker’s grip should line up with the inside of your wrist at the joints.
Once chosen and fitted comfortably to your proportions, it’s time to test drive your walker to make sure it’s comfortable and easy to get around with.
For weight-bearing walkers, begin by pushing or placing the walker one step ahead as you move. Be mindful of your posture, hunching over will make it more challenging to get a sense of how well your walker will work for you.
Next, place your injured leg, or the leg of your choosing if no injuries, in the middle of the walker. Take care not to step too close to the forward bar, and keep the walker still.
Finally, put your weight on the walker for support by pushing straight down on the grips while stepping forward with the other leg.
Repeat stepping forward with the support of the walker one leg at a time.
Again, it’s important to reiterate that when you’re using your walker, keep an upright posture to protect your neck and back. Try not to push the walker too far in front of you or walk behind it, this will contribute to stooping.
When turning, move slowly with small steps. Take care on slippery surfaces, carpets, or uneven flooring, and keep an eye out for hazards on the ground.
Ok! Now that you’re up and moving, there are a bunch of neat accessories and upgrades available to make your walker even more useful…
- Some walkers come available with wheels equipped with hand breaks.
- Some fold for transportation and easy storage.
- Some walkers can accommodate built-in seats for those who have limited endurance or who just need a break while walking!
- Trays are available as an accessory, helping you to carry items like food and drinks to your destination.
- Side pouches can carry whatever you need to keep handy, like handbag items, magazines, books, etc.
- Basket accessories are really useful for shopping, traveling, and whatever else you’d like to carry around.
A few tips: make sure to maintain your walker. Don’t overload it, and make sure your rubber leg caps and grips stay in good condition. This goes for your brakes too- brakes that are too loose or too tight can increase the risk of injury and falling.
Be sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist for recommendations for the right walker for you!