When You Should Get a Cane for MS

How to Find the Right Cane for You

hands holding walking cane
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If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you might be exploring the idea of using a cane, depending upon your level of disability. Like almost everything else that revolves around having MS, the answer to this question is different for different people. In fact, the answer might even change depending on the time of day for one person.

So when should you get a cane? There are a few different ways to answer this question:

Answer #1: Never

Some people with MS may never need a cane. There are so many different symptoms of MS. Some people may experience very mild symptoms or have symptoms that are sensory in nature and do not affect their balance, gait or strength in their legs.

Answer #2: Immediately

Are you having a hard time getting around? Do you feel nervous setting out across an open space with nothing to hold on to? Have you fallen recently? Are your feet so numb or tingly that you can’t feel them when you walk, perhaps leading to stumbling or clumsiness? Are you recovering from a relapse, but still have a pretty noticeable limp, which may or may not go away, that is leading to hip pain and adding to your fatigue?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, a cane is probably a really good idea. Canes help compensate for weakness by providing additional support. They can also greatly improve balance by making you feel more spatially aware and oriented to your surroundings after your leg muscles and nerves in the feet have become a little less reliable.

Answer #3: Soon

Have you ever arrived somewhere only to find that all of the disabled parking spaces are taken or you don't have handicapped tag? You may find yourself gazing across the slab of sweltering macadam at the door that seems to be drifting further and further away as you sit there, wondering how the heck you are going to make it.

Or have you ever been excited to go out and do something, only to find out that one leg has decided to be a little spastic, making a smooth, efficient gait impossible? You may have thought at that time that a cane would be just the help that you needed. Maybe you're fine now, but your last relapse affected your legs and made it very difficult to walk. You remember that feeling and understandably do not want to feel that helpless again.

In these cases, it never hurts to have a cane on hand for those times in which you need a little reassurance and support. Knowing that you have one will reduce stress and worry.

Finding the Right Cane

Make sure it fits. The general rule of thumb is that the top of the cane should line up with the crease in your wrist when your arm is hanging straight down. If it's too long, it can be hard to maneuver and not give much support. If it's too short, you may end up leaning over and be off-balance.

Are you balance or bearing weight? If you just need your cane to give you a little reminder about where the ground is in relation to your body, you probably only need a single tipped cane.

But if you know you'll need to rely heavily on your cane at times to hold most of your weight, then the kind with four feet (or prongs) might be more of what you need. You might even need one of each for different situations.

Work with a PT. Make sure you have at least one session with a physical therapist (PT) to ensure that you are using your can correctly - and that it's the right cane for you. Your PT will show you how to use your cane for maximum efficiency without expending extra effort or putting strain on the wrong muscles or joints. Using a cane is not always intuitive. Depending on what kind of symptom you are using your cane to help with, you may move the cane in unison with the affected leg or the opposite leg.

Pick what you like. You don’t need to pop in to a medical supply store and grab the first cane you see. There are lots of different canes out there that are made from different types of materials, in different colors, adorned with different designs. Fashionable Canes and Walking Canes are two great places to find a cane (or two) that suits your tastes.

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