The Home Physical Therapist

Caregiver Resources From A Home Mobility Expert

Category: Walker

Hangout On Air: Walker Accessories

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Walker Glides, Not Walker With Tennis Balls

Walker-With-Tennis-Balls

Please, please, please, don’t do this. There was a time when putting tennis balls on the back legs of walkers with wheels was a good idea and it solved more than a couple of problems. But, those days are long gone at this point.

We used to put tennis balls on the back legs of walkers because it was the rear legs that had the rubber “anti-slip” tips on them. Back in the 70s and 80s, most people who used walkers were actually in nursing homes. And, the floors in most nursing homes were covered with linoleum or tile.

Unfortunately, when these rubber tips on the rear legs of walkers came in contact with those linoleum floors, they made such a racket skidding across the floors that therapists had to come up with a solution that would make working there bearable (imagine a physical therapy room filled with seniors all using walkers trying to learn to walk again. It’s was a horrible racket. I remember).

Therapists came up with a simple solution: cut tennis balls to fit over the rear legs and voila! No more racket. Just the slight sliding sound or a felt covered tennis ball slipping across the floor.

And, these tennis balls worked great on solid smooth surfaces. However, they didn’t work too well on carpet or concrete surfaces. Thus, you couldn’t really use them in any other area than the nursing home or hosptial.

Fast Forward 30 years. Things had come a long way. While front wheel walker makers still used rubber tips on most folding walkers, they moved to a different option. That was a hard plastic tip which cuts down on the noise and drag that the rubber tips caused.

There was a  downside to the new plastic tips though. They didn’t hold up very long on rough or concrete surfaces. The sidewalks and driveways tended to grind them down relatively quickly. And, if you weren’t paying attention, the concrete would begin to grind down the aluminum legs of the walker. That tended to cause havoc on hardwood floors and carpeting.

Fast forward another 10-15 years and we have…

The solution are what are affectionately known as “walker glides” or “walker ski glides“.  They get the latter name from their resemblance to actual skis. These little walker accessories pop right on the rear legs of the walker with front wheels and make it just skate right along. Over carpet, tile, hardwood and even concrete.  And they hold up on concrete a lot better than the hard plastic caps.

I am not sure why they are not standard issue when you buy a folding walker, but they’re not. You have to buy them separately and apply them yourself. But, it’s not that painful. They don’t cost a lot either and they’re easy to put on.

So, let’s look at how it’s done.

Walker-Ski-Glides1

You can get these online at places like Amazon, or, you should be able to get them pretty cheaply at your nearest Walmart or pharmacy. They shouldn’t cost more than $10 US.

 

Walker-Glides-unboxed

As I said earlier, they look like little skis.

 

Plastic caps on walker

You just pop the plastic caps off the back legs of the folding front wheel walker and …

 

Walker Glides Applied

Install the walker glides. You may have to alternately press either side to get them to seat properly. Don’t try to push them straight in. It’s a hassle.

 

Walker can glide over carpet

And, voila! You are ready to rock and roll over hill and dale…

 

These little puppies really make using the walker a lot easier. They don’t drag, they don’t wear out fast. You can use them outside and inside. The only thing to keep in mind is that sometimes oxygen tubbing or the curled up edge of a carpet or rug can get caught on the ski. But, it’s usually easily taken care of.

If you’re therapist hasn’t suggested these, you may want to ask and see if they’re right for your situation.

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One Way To Prevent A Fall Using A Front Wheel Walker

If you or someone you know is using a front wheel walker (FWW), there’s a little modification that you may want to do. It helps the FWW run a little smoother, is easier on your wrists, and, may prevent you from taking a tumble.

Give Your Walker An Attitude Adjustment

This particular modification changes the “attitude” of your walker and makes it a little more “laid back” rather than “aggressive”. If you (or someone else for you) have already made this adjustment then you’re all set. But, you might get some new tips so, keep reading anyway and then share this article with your friend on facebook or twitter when you’re through. It may help someone else.

Basically what you do is lower the rear legs 1 or 2 pegs lower than the front legs. This adjusts the height of the walker and also will change the force direction when you’re rolling along.

There’s a couple of things to consider if your walker looks like this:

FWW adjusted wrong

1. You’re not getting all the support that you could. This is because the position of the handles and rear legs prevent you from putting any weight through them. All the weight of the FWW is put on only the two front legs. And they’re the one’s with the wheels!

2. If you’re using your FWW like this and you hit something with your front wheels, there is a good chance the walker may tip forward on you. If you’re not prepared for a sudden  stop or tip forward, you might actually fall on your face when the walker tips forward.

FWW tips forward

3. Using your walker in this more aggressive posture puts a lot more stress on your wrists. This has to do with ergonomics. When something is ergonomically positioned or adjusted, this simply means it’s adjusted in a way that puts the least amount of stress on the body. There’s a lot less stress on your wrists when the front of the walker is higher than the rear.

A Better Position For A Front Wheel Walker

When you’re using your walker, you actually want it to look more like this:

FWW adjusted correctly

Having the rear legs lower than the front legs on the FWW puts you in the best position all around. It’s easier on your hands and wrists. Therefore, it’s a lot easier to push.

Also, if you do need to put more weight on your walker, it’s easier to do from this angle. This is important for anyone who may have a lot of pain when they walk or who may have a lot of leg weakness.

Like with anything you read online, this is not a one size fits all practice. Some people may be more comfortable with having the FWW adjusted at the same height on all the legs. Others may be more comfortable with the rear legs lower. It’s really about how you feel when you’re using it.

And, most importantly, keep safety first!

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What’s The Right Height For A Walker?

walker-too-tallIf you’re not too sure of yourself when you’re walking, just having something to hold onto while you’re on your feet is probably upper most in your mind. Most people use a walker.

Many people who use walkers never really had the walker fitted for them. That may be because they borrowed it from a family member or friend. Or, like some, never thought to adjust it after they brought it home from the store.

And when the idea of the walker being too short or too tall is brought up, most people are surprised. This is because most don’t know that their walker may not be adjusted properly for their height.

What To Look For When Adjusting Walkers

There are a couple of things to look at when you’re thinking about adjusting a walker. The height (which goes without saying). walker-too-shortAnd the “attitude” (I picked that up from a guy at a bicycle shop), which is the angle of the walker handles. I deal with that in another blog post.

Having the walker at the right height is important for two reasons. Number one, if the walker is too low or short you’re going to have to bend over to use it. This is bad for the posture and it actually makes walking a little more difficult. Especially if you’re in a lot of pain.

Reason number two is that if the walker is too high, you won’t be able to straighten your elbows when you’re walking. This makes it hard to get enough leverage to support your body weight with your arms and your legs will have to carry a bigger percentage of your weight. Again, if you have leg pain, or, if your leg(s) are really weak, this could be a problem.

How Do You Know How Tall A Walker Should Be?

Adjusting a walker to the proper height is easier than you think. All you have to do is have the person using the walker stand next to it (or inside it) with their hands at their sides.

As you have the person where you want them, adjust the height of the walker handles so that they are equal to the bend of the person’s wrist.

walker-proper-heightUsing the bend of the wrist as a marker ensures a few things:

  1. The person will have the best leverage when they’re walking.
  2. The person will have a better posture because the walker is adjusted to their height.
  3. The distance between the person and the walker will be optimal.

And, if you find that the person using the walker can’t stand unsupported, just have them stand as straight as is comfortable with both hands on the walker handles. Then adjust the height of the walker to where their arms have only a slight bend at the elbows. This will basically accomplish the same thing. However, it may be a little more difficult adjusting the walker with someone holding onto it.

You can always adjust it for comfort also. Everybody is a little different and there may be some extenuating circumstances like very poor posture or your walker may be too tall or too short for your height.

Just keep in mind that when the walker handle is closest to the bend in the wrist, that means that the walker is basically at the best height for the person using it.

If there are other concerns or questions about how to adjust walkers or anything else, feel free to contact me. I am always interested in helping.

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How To Walk With A Cane

 

Wrong way to use a cane

Wrong way to use a cane

Walking with a cane looks simple enough. To some people it comes pretty easily. But then to others, it looks and feels a little more complex.

This article will show you the basics of how to walk with a cane (or at least how a physical therapist would show you). Like with anything else, this is general information. It could change from person to person. And from cane to cane.

To start out with, you’ve probably seen a lot of different types of canes in your travels. The single point canes that can be no more than a stick or pole going all he way up to what is called “the large based quad cane” that’s got four legs on it.

Whichever one you happen to be using, the way you use them are basically the same. So, let’s get started.

In order to use the cane properly, you’ll first have to make sure that it’s adjusted to the proper height.

Use Cane In Opposite Hand Of Leg That Is Weakest Or Hurts Most

After you’ve adjusted the cane, you’ll want to point to your weakest or sorest leg. Once you’ve done that, put the cane in the opposite hand. In other words, if your right leg is sore or weak, use the cane in your left hand. And, if it’s your left leg that’s weak, use the cane in your right hand.

This confuses a lot of people. Some think that they’re supposed to use the cane in their dominant hand. That is, if you’re right handed, you should use the cane in your right hand.

And then again, some think that you’re supposed to use the cane on the same side as the sore or weak leg. That is, if your right leg is painful, you use the cane in your right hand to help support the right leg.

Neither one of these assumptions are the best. It doesn’t mean that they don’t work. They’re just not based on the best principles.

You want to use the cane in the opposite hand of the leg that needs the most support is because by doing this you get the most

Right way to use a cane

Right way to use a cane

mechanical support for your weak or sore leg.

Using A Cane Is About Being Balanced

When we walk our shoulders and our hips rotate in opposite directions and cause our arms and legs to swing opposite each other. So, when you take a step with your right leg, your left arm swings forward. And when you take a step with your left leg, the right arm swings forward. This is one of the actions our bodies use to keep us balanced.

When you use your cane in the opposite hand as the sore or weak leg you actually are giving yourself the best support while keeping yourself balanced at the same time.

It takes some getting used to. But, once you find out how to walk with a cane, you’ll feel a lot more steady and safe.

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Using A Walker With Wheels

In general, front wheeled walkers (FWW) are designed for the person who needs a little more stability when they’re walking. Maybe you have bad knee or leg pain. Or, it could be that your balance is pretty bad. Or, it could be that one of your legs is a lot weaker than the other.

Whatever the reason, if you’re using (or thinking of using) a front wheeled walker to get around with, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The front wheeled walker is designed so that you can use your upper body strength to support the weight of your body when you have to stand on your weak or sore leg.

Walker with wheels (front wheeled walker): 3 tips for safety

But in order to make sure that you’re using the FWW to give you the most support there are a few things to keep in mind.

The following are the steps you should take to make sure that you’re using your FWW properly:

Make sure that the walker is adjusted properly to your height.

walker-proper-height

This is very important. Since you’re going to be using your arms you’re going to need the FWW adjusted so that you can just straighten your elbows without bending forward.

The way you do this is to stand straight with your arms at your side. Then adjust the walker to where the handle hits the bend of your wrists. This should be the proper height to get you the most leverage from your arms.

 

Follow the cadence of “walker, bad foot, good foot”.

walking-with-fww

When you start out walking, begin by pushing the walker far enough ahead of you so that you have room to move just inside the rear walker legs.

Then bring up your weak or sore leg. As you plant that leg, use your arms to take most of your body weight as you bring up the good leg last.

This gets confusing to some. Many people lead with their good foot when walking. And if you’re going at a good clip, it does seem to get pretty relative.

However, there are a couple of reasons you should emphasize moving the sore/weak leg first. Number one, mentally, what you want to do is to get your “bad” foot out in front of the body so you can use your arms to support yourself better. And reason number two, many people tend to drag their sore/weak leg behind them and not taking a full step. Not only is it a bad habit, but it decreases the amount of stability you have when you’re walking.

Do not “ride” the walker cross bar

I briefly mentioned this above. However, when you’re using a FWW, try to avoid staying too close to the front cross bar.

When a person is walking with a FWW and takes too large a step, the foot tends to land in front of the walker. When the next step is taken with the other foot, this brings the thighs right against the cross bar. And in order to maintain standing the person usually has to bend their upper body ahead of the cross bar and this tends to throw off their balance.

The way to avoid this is to keep the hands and walker in front of the hips at all times. If you imagine pushing the FWW “like a shopping cart” this keeps it in the right position. And, when the FWW is in the right position, you get the most support.

In summary, keep these things in mind when you’re using a FWW. 1) Make sure the walker is adjusted to the bend of your wrists. 2) Remember the cadence of “walker, bad leg, good leg”. And 3) keep the walker handles and your hands ahead of your hips when walking.

So if you want to know how to walk with a walker with wheels, remember to do these things and walking with a FWW will be no problem at all.

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