Walkers

If you have weak knees or ankles, or balance problems that interfere with walking, you might consider getting a walker to help you move around. Walkers are more stable than canes because a walker can support up to half of your body weight, whereas a cane supports only 25%. Prices range from $30 for a basic, rigid walker, to $600 for a wheeled walker with accessories. A physical therapist or your physician can prescribe the right type of walker for your needs and demonstrate how to use the walker correctly. Walkers are reimbursable under Medicare and many other third-party payers.

Rigid Walkers

The rigid walker is the most basic walker design, and is the most commonly used walker. The frame is usually aluminum and sometimes the width is adjustable. Components of the rigid walker also include crutch or cane tip legs, and handles. Handles are available in several styles and can be modified for comfort with sheepskin and other similar materials.

Many people feel that the rigid walker imposes a slow pace and an artificial walking style. To operate, you have to lift the walker, move it forward, and then put it back down for each step. Because this type of walker requires lifting, extended use may cause strain on the wrists, shoulders, and arms of an individual. Some rigid walkers fold into a flat object so that they may be carried or transported easily while not in use.

Wheeled Walkers

Wheeled walkers come in styles with two, three, or four wheels. Unlike the rigid walker, you simply push a wheeled walker. This creates a more natural walking style. Wheeled walkers often have automatic brakes that work when you push down. Some have auto-glide features that allow the rear legs to skim the surface.

Three-wheeled or four-wheeled walkers require less energy and strength to operate. They may provide a better performance in turning, and gliding over carpeting is easier as well.

Wheel size and walker weight vary greatly among different models. For instance, larger wheels are best on uneven surfaces like grass. All wheeled walkers are heavier than rigid walkers. Because many wheeled walkers do not fold, they may be difficult to transport.

Accessories

Several convenient accessories are available, such as detachable baskets, seats, and trays. Walker bags allow you to carry small items while your hands remain free for the walker.

Important Considerations for Effective Walker Use

  • For optimal performance, walker height is best when your shoulders are level and your arms are bent at the elbow at a 20 to 30 degree angle.
  • Extended walker use may result in side effects such as a stooped posture.
  • To prevent tripping or falling, always look ahead when using your walker and not at your feet.
  • If you live in a multi-level home, it may be necessary to have a walker at each level. Avoid using the walker on stairs.

Further Information

The following companies provide a wide selection of walkers. Write or call for a catalog:

Walk Easy
2915 South Congress Avenue
Delray Beach, FL 33445
(800) 441-2904

Garelick Medical Products
644 Second Street
St. Paul Park, MN 55071
(612) 459-8269

Maddak Inc. (for walker accessories)
6 Industrial Road
Pequannock, NJ 07440-9974
(800) 443-4926