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Using a Cane
"Your cane looks good on you,” a friend recently told me.
Surprised, I searched his face to determine if he was joking. Since injuring my hip recently, I have used a cane when necessary. Delivered to my hospital room by a medical equipment company, the cane is not fancy or decorative, but basic and functional.
As I dressed up for a wedding, I had considered leaving the cane behind. “Isn’t it enough that I have to wear ‘sensible shoes’ and orthotics with my dress clothes in order to walk?” I had wondered. “Do I really have to use a cane too? What will people think?”
I had decided to use the cane, however, knowing that I would want to be able to walk and stand in order to enjoy mingling. Without it, I would have hurt more and able to walk less but with a more pronounced limp.
“I mean it,” he assured me. “I should be using a cane, but my pride gets in the way.” My friend also has significant health issues that impact his walking.
“It has not been easy to set aside my pride and use a cane,” I agreed. “My physical therapist noted that I walk much better with it. She also told me that it is better to use a cane and walk well than to walk without a cane with a limp.”
As the weeks have passed and I have recovered from the acute stage of my hip injury, I have been using the cane less. My gait has improved when I walk indoors for a short time. As the day progresses, however, my hip begins to fatigue and hurt more, and I sometimes start to limp. At these times, I would benefit from using the cane, but sometimes resist.
During longer walks, such as to shop, I fatigue easily and benefit from using the cane. I can walk for much longer without limping with the cane than without the cane. Reminding myself that using the cane will benefit my long term health and healing, I grudgingly bring it with me to use when I know that I will be walking or standing for an extended time.
In addition, as the ice and snow have begun to fall, I have found walking outdoors to be more hazardous. Neuropathy has limited the sensory feedback that I get from my feet and lower legs. Slippery conditions can lead to a fall, increasing the possibility of serious injury. Although I would rather leave it behind, I have committed myself to use the cane during winter weather, reducing the risk of a fall.
As I write this, I have noticed that I refer to “the cane,” not to “my cane.” Despite my grudging acceptance of my need to use it sometimes, I find it difficult to fully embrace using a cane. I look forward to the day when I can completely leave the cane behind. Will that day come?
Since I have a progressive neuromuscular disease, Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), I may have to accept that there will be times that I need the cane and that my need for the cane may increase over time rather than decrease. In the future, I might even need an assistive device such as a walker or wheelchair.
In the meantime, I continue to work towards accepting that which I cannot control. I concentrate on giving my hip time to heal. And, when I need to, I recall my friends encouraging words, remembering that rather than limping along in unhealthy pride, walking in humility with my cane “looks good” on me.
Ashton-Miller JA, Yeh MW, Richardson JK, Galloway T, (1996). A cane reduces loss of balance in patients with peripheral neuropathy: results from a challenging unipedal balance test. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 77(5):446-52. An abstract of this paper can be retrieved from
Norman, B., (2007) Cranes, Crutches and Walkers. Quest, 14:6. Retrieved from http://quest.mda.org/article/canes-crutches-and-walkers on 12/19/13.
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