The traditional wooden walking stick has been joined by several other types of mobility products to help those who have difficulties walking. These range from walking stick accessories to 4 wheeled walkers.
A walker or walking frame is a tool for disabled or elderly people who need additional support to maintain balance or stability while walking. The British English common equivalent term for a walker is Zimmer frame, a generalized trademark from Zimmer Holdings, a major manufacturer of such devices and joint replacement parts. The person walks with the frame surrounding their front and sides and their hands provide additional support by holding on to the top of the sides of the frame. A different approach to the walker is the rollator, also called wheeled walker. The rollator consists of a frame with three or four large wheels, handlebars and a built-in seat, which allows the user to stop and rest when needed.
Often used to take some of the weight off the affected leg, a walking stick is usually held in the opposite hand to the affected leg. This might seem strange, but it allows the stick to take some of the weight. Some people may prefer to hold the walking stick in their dominant hand which may be on the weaker or injured side.
Nowadays lightweight, folding and colored walking sticks are as common place as wooden walking sticks. Ergonomic and more comfortable handles help to spread the pressure and ease the load on the wrist.
If you are in the market for a walking stick, there are several things to consider before making your purchase. These include how often the stick will be used, where it will be used, and whether it will be carried with you all the time.
If the stick is to be used occasionally, then it would make financial sense to choose a budget model. These models tend not to fold, and not to be adjustable, so it wise to ensure that you buy the right size. If it is to be used all day everyday, then a more comfortable ergonomically designed stick will be more suitable. If you intend to take your stick with you wherever you go, then a lightweight folding walking stick will be easier to carry than one that won't fold. One suitable for all types of terrain might be more appropriate if you intend to use your walking stick outdoors off the beaten track.
Once you have decided on the type of walking stick, you can choose from various models and types of handle. Some handles are ergonomically designed for either the left or right hand, and others are suitable for either hand.A T-shaped handle spreads the weight across the whole palm to make it more comfortable than a standard walking stick. Shock-absorbing sticks cushion the hand with a soft handle and a flexible ferrule.
Tripod sticks and quad sticks are similar to walking sticks, but have a 3 or 4 feet. These types of walking stick can be beneficial to those who lean on their stick, as well as to those who want the additional stability that extra feet can offer.
Once you have purchased your walking stick, there are a range of accessories that can make carrying or storing it easier. A bag designed for a folding walking stick can be a convenient choice if you carry your stick with you all the time. This means that it will fit into a smaller space and can be left in a handbag or the glove compartment of the car or perhaps even a large coat pocket so that you never need be without it. A wrist strap will be indispensable for those with a weak grip that may struggle to hold onto a walking stick. It also means that the stick doesn't have to be put down when shopping or opening doors for example. Stick clips and holders allow the walking stick to be kept close to hand and upright when not in use. Walking stick holders are also available for mobility scooters, so that you can have your stick with you when you are out and about. Replacement or different types of ferrules are available for walking sticks and walking frames. Different ferrules can be more suitable for outdoors, and a pivoting ferrule can provide additional stability in wet and slippery conditions.
Elbow crutches can be the most appropriate walking aid for some people, especially for those recovering from an injury. They are usually adjustable to make them more comfortable and offer the right level of support. Crutches may be available in different colors, depending on the model.
Walking frames are commonly known as Zimmer frames, and are available with and without wheels at the front. Some models will fold for transport and storage and some are height adjustable too. They are usually made of aluminum and are lightweight, weighing around 4-7lbs (2-3Kg). They can be used indoors and out, and are ideal for people who need more support that a walking stick can provide such as those recuperating from leg and back injuries.
Walkers and rollators are similar to walking frames, and have either 3 or 4 wheels and are usually height adjustable. They have brakes which can be similar to bicycle brakes, and some models have brakes which can be locked, so that the walker can be left on a slope unattended and it won't roll away. The other type of brake is operated when the user leaning down on the handles, the walker then slows down and stops. Walkers with push down brakes are not ideal for everybody, as people who lean on the walker whilst walker can inadvertently cause the brakes to come and on, and come to an unexpected halt. However, for those people with limited mobility and dexterity who find operating traditional style brakes difficult, the push down brake is a suitable alternative.
Some models of walker have a bag supplied, or available as an optional extra. This makes the walker ideal for shopping trips and days out. This allows the walker to take the weight and bulk of items that would previously be carried either about the person, or in a bag. There are some models of 4 wheel walker available that have a built in seat. This adds to the convenience of the walker, and means that perhaps you don't need to limit your journeys if you tire easily. Most models of walker are very easy to fold for transport and storage. Although slightly heavier than walking frames, walkers are pushed rather than lifted and carried, so the weight difference shouldn't really be apparent in use.
Baskets and bags are available for walkers, and mean that you can carry more on your walker. Smaller items that might slip through the holes in a basket can be carried in a bag without fear of losing them. Also, a bag can be left attached to the walker once it is folded, whereas a basket has to be removed.
A device to assist walking that has entered the market in recent years is the gait trainer. This is a mobility aid that is more supportive than the standard walker. It typically offers support that assists weight-bearing and balance. The accessories or product parts that attach to the product frame provide un-weighting support and postural alignment to enable walking practice. Mobility aids may also include adaptive technology such as sling lifts or other patient transfer devices that help transfer users between beds and chairs or lift chairs (and other sit-to-stand devices), transfer or convertible chairs. Knee scooters help some users.
There are many items that can help to make walking easier, ranging from a new ferrule to a 4 wheeled walker. Why not see if any of these could make your life or somebody else's life easier.