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Walking aid for knee or hip osteoarthritis

Musculoskeletal
        1. Walking aid for knee or hip osteoarthritis

First published: 5 May 2021

The RACGP gratefully acknowledge the following contributor:

  • Zoe Michaleff, Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare, Bond University

Related GP HANDI entry Walking cane for knee osteoarthritis


 

Your doctor has recommended that you stay active to help you recover from your low back pain.

Key points

  • A walking aid can help make walking easier and more comfortable if you have knee and/or hip osteoarthritis and experience pain, have difficulty with walking or feel unsteady when walking.
  • It can take 1–2 months of regular use to get used to walking with a walking aid. Training videos are available.
  • The walking aid should be adjusted to suit you.

How can a walking aid help with walking?

  • Osteoarthritis can cause pain and tenderness in your knee or hip joint and make walking harder.
  • When using a walking aid, you transfer some of your body weight through the aid. This in turn helps to reduce the weight on the knee or hip joint and lessen the pain. The walking aid can also help you feel steadier on your feet.

What are the types of walking aids?

  • Walking aids can be a walking stick, or a two- or four-wheeled walker. You can usually buy (or hire) them from your local pharmacy, mobility shops or online. They are often very cheap second hand. 
  • Talk to your local physiotherapist, pharmacist or doctor to find out which walking aid is best for you. They can also help adjust it for you and teach you how to use the aid safely.
  • The type of aid that would suit you depends on a few factors, including which joint is affected, how much support you need, your weight and whether you need to walk up or down stairs.

Walking stick

Walker

  • May suit people with pain in one knee
  • Hold the walking stick in the hand that is opposite to the sore joint. For example, if your right knee is affected, then you should walk with the walking stick in your left hand.
  • May be better for people with pain in more than one joint (hips or knees)
  • A walker can provide more support and stability compared with a walking stick.

How do I get started?

  • Correct set up: Start by standing comfortably with your hands by your side. The handle of the walking stick or walker should be in line with the crease in your wrist. Once adjusted, place your hand(s) on the handle of the aid and your arm(s) should be slightly bent and your shoulders should feel relaxed.
  • At first, you may find yourself walking more slowly with a walking aid than without one. However, with 1-2 months of regular use, you should find that walking will become easier and more comfortable.
  • Training videos for using a walking aid are available:

Walking stick training video

Walker training video

What to look out for

  • Ideally, a walking aid needs to be adjusted to suit you and you are taught how to use it. Using a poorly adjusted aid may cause pain and discomfort in your wrists or shoulders. It can also affect your steadiness and the way you walk.
  • Make sure you know how to use the aid and its safety features, such as the rubber stopper on the end of a walking stick or brakes on a wheeled walker. If you are not sure, ask your physiotherapist, pharmacist or doctor to check your set up.
  • From time to time, check your aid’s safety features for signs of wear and tear. Ensure any damaged or worn parts are fixed as soon as possible.
Find a physiotherapist through the Australian Physiotherapy Association
Speak with a nurse on Musculoskeletal Australia’s free Help Line 1800 263 265 (weekdays,  9 am – 5 pm).
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