Best for Back Pain: Cane, Walker, or Something Surprisingly Different

Best for Back Pain: Cane, Walker, or Something Surprisingly Different

If you have a spinal condition or are unbalanced, you may notice that it impacts your daily functioning, from walking through the grocery store to climbing stairs to simply walking through your home. Not only can pain be an issue, but you may struggle with balance and proper functioning of your legs. 

Using a cane or walker might be a choice you’ve considered to help maintain your independence and ability to get through your day. Assistive walking devices offer benefits with a few drawbacks and are available in a variety of styles. However, there’s an entirely different option that allows you to go without either one. Read on to find out more.

Which is Better: A Cane or Walker?

Eighty percent of wheeled walker users never received instructions on how to use their frame while 66 percent of patients with hip pathology do not know which hand to hold their cane in. While canes and walkers each have their own benefits, it’s best to know a little about your personal situation before picking out one or the other.

For instance, canes are best if the pain or weakness you’re experiencing is only located on one side of your body, while walkers are the better option if you have pain on both sides equally. So if you have sciatica that runs down just one leg, a cane might be a good choice. However, if you have lower back pain that affects both legs, then a walker might be the better option for you.

Take into account the amount of weight you need the mobility device to support. Canes can support 25 percent of your weight while walkers can support up to 50 percent of your weight. 

Consider the amount of stability you’ll need as you recover. Walkers provide the most stability, but four-point canes come in a close second for balance and safety.

Flexibility is another factor to consider when selecting a cane or walker. If you need the flexibility of going up and down stairs, then you’ll need a cane. You can’t use a walker on stairs. 

Or skip down to see how you may be able to go without either one.

What Features Should I Consider When Getting a Cane or Walker?

When getting a cane or walker, there are several features that you should take into account.


Canes come in a variety of heights and styles. Consider the base and the handle when purchasing a cane. 

The base comes in either a single-point base or a quad-base cane. The single-point is fairly common and for those who require little assistance with balance. On the other hand, quad-based canes offer more stability, but are heavier and more awkward to use. 

When thinking about the handle, there are three considerations to keep in mind: the height, comfort, and the amount of weight you’ll be putting on the cane. When your elbow is bent at a 10- to 30-degree angle, the top of the cane should come to your wrist. Anything higher or lower than that will interfere with proper walking techniques.

The comfort and weight applied to the cane go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t going to be putting a lot of weight on the cane, then a rounded (or tourist) handle is appropriate. However, if you really need to grip the cane’s handle or place a lot of pressure on the cane, T-shaped handles, which allow for the even distribution of weight across the entire palm, are the better choice. Finally, offset handles, which are shaped like a question mark or shepherd’s staff, distribute your weight through the cane shaft, making walking more comfortable. 


There are three considerations that come into play when purchasing a walker: strength and ability of the arms, location of use, and personal preference.

Standard walkers, which lack wheels, have fallen out of use due to the strength required to move them forward. Instead, people choose from walkers that have two, three, or four wheels.

Walkers with two front wheels and posts in the back offer the best stability because the posts keep it in place when you aren’t pushing it forward. Walkers with three wheels are smaller than typical walkers and great for tight spaces, but lack the stability of their two-wheeled counterparts. Four-wheeled walkers are wider and include a seat and basket to hold personal items.Because there’s a seat, they are preferred by people who lack the endurance to walk long distances without stopping to rest.

Another Option

In addition to considering mobility devices like canes and walkers, you should also consider the fact that you could go without either. 

Chiropractic is dedicated to the non-surgical treatment of disorders that affect the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Treatments typically focus on the manipulation of the spine and treatment of surrounding muscles and tendons. 

Individuals experiencing back pain or other conditions which affect their mobility can benefit from manual therapies offered by chiropractors. Regular visits to the chiropractor along with the initial intensive manipulative therapy can bring about results that allow an individual to forgo use of mobility devices, such as a walker or cane. 

How to Eliminate the Need for a Walker or Cane

A case study in the US National Library of Medicine describes an 81-year-old male with a 12-year history of Parkinson disease who was unable to comfortably walk without his walker. He had a stooped posture and a shuffling gait. 

The patient sought out chiropractic care and received treatments twice a week for two months following the initial exam. 

Following these treatments, he stated that there was an improvement in his posture with a decrease in his leftward lean. The positive changes in his posture led him to be able to walk without assistance from his walker. He stated that he no longer felt unbalanced and since he began chiropractic care, he no longer felt the need for a mobility device. He steps more naturally with increased strides and greater stability. 

Like the patient in the case study above, you, too, may be able to enjoy improved mobility through sessions with your chiropractor. If you’re ready to have decreased pain and greater stability with the help of chiropractic, schedule an appointment with us online or call 256-721-9696 today. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.