Physical therapists can properly assess and fit walking aids to prevent injuries
ALEXANDRIA, VA, July 9, 2009 — The American Physical Therapy
Association (APTA) is urging elderly adults who use canes and walkers as
walking aids to be properly assessed and fitted by a physical therapist
to avoid fall-related injuries. This advice comes in response to a study
published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (June
2009), which found that 47,000 senior citizens end up in emergency rooms
each year due to falls from improper use and fit of walkers and
The study, conducted by government researchers, examined six years of
emergency room records and found that the walker was associated seven
times more with injury-related falls than was the cane. Physical
therapists advise that these results indicate a strong need for proper
fit and assessment.
According to physical therapist and APTA member Cathy Ciolek, PT,
DPT, GCS, many patients often borrow walking aids from friends and
family, which can result in injuries. "We see many patients use borrowed
canes, walkers, and crutches without adjusting the fit and height
appropriately, which can cause discomfort and result in further injury,"
In addition to providing a proper fit, your physical therapist can
assess your individual needs to ensure you are using the proper walking
aid and that it is in proper working condition. "In some instances a
cane may not be the safest option, and it would be best to use a walker.
Your physical therapist can help make that decision," says Ciolek. She
provides some general tips for those using a cane or walker as a walking
- The walker or cane should be about the height of your wrists when
your arms are at your sides.
- When using a walker, your arms should be slightly bent when holding
on, but you shouldn't have to bend forward at the waist to reach
- Periodically check the rubber tips at the bottom of the cane or
walker. Be sure to replace them if they are uneven or worn through.
As experts in restoring motion and mobility in people's lives,
physical therapists work collaboratively with physicians to ensure safe
recoveries from illness or injury. Ciolek recommends seeing a physical
therapist for an assessment and proper fit or asking for a referral to a
physical therapist from your physician. Visit www.moveforwardpt.com to find a
physical therapist near you.
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care
professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore
mobility — in many cases without expensive surgery or the side
effects of prescription medications. APTA represents more than 72,000
physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of
physical therapy nationwide. Its purpose is to improve the health and
quality of life of individuals through the advancement of physical
therapist practice, education, and research.In most states, patients can
make an appointment directly with a physical therapist, without a
physician referral. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can
treat and find a physical therapist in your area at www.moveforwardpt.com.