By Javier Acosta, Administrator of Therapy Services
You wake one morning realizing that you are starting to rely more and more on the objects around you to help you balance and walk.
This is called furniture walking and it’s a tell-tale sign that you need help to improve your balance and safety. Is a walker or cane something that can help? Let’s walk through this together (no pun intended).
Our bodies are designed to maintain a linear, up-right postural position, with shoulders over hips and slightly behind your ankles. A standard stride length is 13 to15 inches from heel to toe. Do we always maintain this, no of course not, and as we get older we tend to use our eyes more than the sensors in our feet to balance as we walk, causing us to slouch more. This also increases the tendency to lean forward which, in turn, increases our risk for falls.
There are walkers with two wheels, three wheels, four wheels, no wheels, brakes, up-right armrests, and a basket. It’s enough to drive you nuts when you look at all the options. How do you know what’s right for you?
You start by asking questions. Our team of professional therapists on the Westminster Canterbury - Lynchburg campus can guide you in the direction you need to go. We can do a quick screening or evaluation to determine if a walker could help you. A rollator may be right for you; that’s a walker with brakes, four wheels and a small seat. We adjust the rollator to the proper height, which is 15 to 20 degrees of bend in your elbow, so your wrists are even with the top of the walker handles.
Once you have the right device with the right fit for you, we will watch you practice a bit. And we will remind you that a walker is a device to help you maintain an up-right body position. You use the walker by guiding it, not pushing it. If you push the walker, it will get away from you, causing you increased pressure on your wrists and arms, which increases the risk of slouching more.
Remember, we want to get away from slouching.
Walking up-right as much as possible is the way to go.
Always remember your walker is like a best friend. You want to keep it close. It’s your partner-in-crime; your support. You never want it to be alone.