How to Use a Walker Correctly and Safely

Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Assistive Technology Professional
Medical Equipment Guru
Mobility Specialist
Senior Advocate

elderly man learning to use a walker correctly
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There is a right way and a wrong way to use a walker. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people using one the wrong way. This leads to injuries of the arms and shoulders and even falls. Mobility aids are important to the function of a senior, but they must always be used safely. The chance of falling from a walking aid is much higher than using a wheelchair. Using a walker correctly reduces the chances of these injuries. In the following videos, professional therapists show you how to set the proper height of a walker and also how to use a walker correctly and safely. These videos also share other tips like flipping around the front wheels to make a walker smaller in width.

Setting the Proper Height of a Walker

It is very important that a walker is set to the proper height for safe and proper use. Setting the walker height too high causes the shoulders to work more than they should which leads to shoulder pain. On the other hand, setting the walker height too low causes back pain from being bent over too far. Users at the ends of the height spectrum may need a smaller walker or a taller walker than the standard size.

How to Adjust a Walker for Your Height

  1. The proper height of a walker is when the handles are at about the same level as your wrist. The recommended posture while using a walker is standing up nice and straight with only a very slight bend in the arm.
  2. Next, keep the handles level with the ground so that all legs are the same height.
  3. If the walker is not at this height, the legs adjust up and down by using the little metal push buttons and sliding the leg up and down to the proper height.

Making sure the walker is set up properly is the first step in how to use a walker correctly and safely.

Setting Up a Walker: Video Demonstration

Here is Mandy Chamberlain, an Occupational Therapist with Seniors Flourish walks you through the process of setting up a walker properly.

How to Use a Walker Correctly and Safely

The purpose of a walker is to help someone with mobility problems walk more safely.  But, did you know that over 47,000 people fall a year while using a walking aid? A contributing factor in many of these cases is that the aid was not used correctly.

How to Use a Walker Correctly with an Injured Leg:

  1. Push the walker forward slightly.
  2. Step forward towards the walker with the weaker leg first. Step into the middle of the walker using the arms for support.
  3. Bring the better leg in to meet the other leg so that the user is standing with both legs in the center of the walker.
  4. Repeat these steps by pushing the walker slightly forward.

How to Use a Walker Correctly with General Weakness or Balance Issues

  1. Push the walker forward
  2. Then walk with your normal gait.
  3. Stay with the walker keeping your body in between the handles.
  4. Finally, keep walking at your normal pace.

Using a Walker Correctly: Video Demonstration

Cindy, a Physical Therapist at Adaptive Equipment Corner, demonstrates both ways of using a walker correctly:

If using the walker seems unsafe, consider another type of mobility aid. Maybe a rollator walker that has a seat is better. That way, there is always a place to stop and rest. While no one gets excited about using a wheelchair, sometimes a lightweight wheelchair is the safest option, even if only used temporarily. The safety of the senior is always the main consideration.

About the Walker Used in the Videos

The walkers used in these videos are front-wheeled walkers with 2 wheels and glide tips in the back. They use paddle style folding buttons which are easier for weak or arthritic hands to push. These walkers are lightweight and made of aluminum. You can buy a walker like this one in several places including online at Amazon.

Do you have any advice or experience about how to use a walker to share? If so, please leave a comment below! Questions are always welcome too!

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