While canes are a similar concept to crutches and can be very helpful in controlling symptoms, they are not necessarily as powerful in minimizing loading. They tend to work best for patients with small problems with balance or instability, with some weakness in their leg or trunk, with an injury, or with pain.
The top of the cane should come up to the crease of your wrist when you stand up straight. The elbow should be a little bent when you hold the cane.
There are two ways to use a cane. In order to most off-load the area, it is used in the same hand as the involved foot. For example, if your right ankle is hurting, putting the cane down beside it when you step with it results in almost all of the force going through the cane and very little through the foot. While using the cane in the same hand as the injured foot enables you to off-load the foot more, the downside is that you end up walking with a very asymmetric gait, and the shift in torque puts a lot of stress on your back.
Much more commonly with the cane, and what most medical professionals encourage, is to use the cane in the opposite hand of the involved foot so that the cane and involved leg swing and strike the ground at the same time. If your right foot is hurting, put the cane in your left hand. As you step forward, put 50% of your weight on your right foot and 50% of your weight on your left hand and then step forward with the left foot. This method is preferred because it enables you to have a much more symmetrical gait (more like a normal walking pattern) and avoid walking with a marked limp.
To go up stairs with a cane, use the handrail for assistance and step up on the “good” leg first. Then, using the cane in the opposite hand of the involved foot so that it takes half of the load, step on the involved foot. To go down stairs, first put the cane down on the step and then the involved foot. Then put down the “good” foot, which should carry most of the load.
Edited October 4, 2015