Helpful Tips for Walker Use at Home
First things first, know what your doctor feels is safe for you at this time:
It is important that you follow your doctor’s orders and put only the amount of weight advised on your affected side. They may recommend one of the following: full weight bearing, weight bearing as tolerated, partial weight bearing at a specific percent or pound limit level, touch down weight bearing of less than 10 pounds, or non-weight bearing. Whatever the case, follow these instructions until you are re-evaluated by your physician and told by your physician to follow new weight bearing instructions.
Precautions when using a walker:
- Be aware of the surface you are walking on. When outside, be cautious of uneven pavement and icy or wet surfaces, whether on dirt, grass, or cement.
- Move all loose rugs out of the way.
- Clean dirt and stones from the rubber tips and if the rubber tips are worn down, replace them.
- Have someone nearby to help you until your physical therapist clears you to walk alone.
- Do not try to hop one legged without the walker even a short distance, as this can lead to further injury.
- Do not go fast, because this can be fatiguing and dangerous.
- Avoid sitting in chairs that are low or those that do not have arm rests, since they are difficult to get out of.
- The walker is too unstable to hang onto when getting up or down – so use the chair armrests instead.
How to get up from a chair:
- Scoot forward to the edge of your seat.
- Place the affected leg slightly forward (if applicable) and your other foot back underneath you.
- Keep your head up and lean shoulders forward over your unaffected knee (if applicable) or both knees.
- Push up from the chair with both hands on the chair armrests.
- Check your balance with the walker once fully up.
How to walk with a walker:
- Proper walker height allows a slight amount of bend in the elbow when standing tall, with hands on the walker handgrips.
- To walk, move the walker ahead so the back walker legs are at least to your toe level.
- Step forward to the middle of the walker with your affected leg first (if applicable) and push down on the handgrips as you step up with your other leg.
- Check your balance before you advance the walker again.
- You never need to get closer than six inches to the front walker bar – if you get too close and your legs get ahead of your hands, you may lose your balance and fall backwards.
- If you are using a walker with wheels, and you do not have any weight bearing limitations, you can roll the walker along the floor continuously as you stay between or slightly ahead of the back legs.
- Wheeled walkers make less noise if you aren’t pushing down hard on the back legs while advancing the device.
How to sit down in a chair:
- Use the walker to back up to the chair until you feel the chair on your legs.
- Place affected leg slightly forward (if applicable).
- Let go of the walker with one hand and reach back to the arm rest, once you feel the arm rest, reach back with the other hand and lower yourself to the seat.
How to climb stairs with a walker:
An easy way to remember how to maneuver stairs is to think: Up with the good, down with the bad.
If you have only one step, and you have weight bearing restrictions, it is easiest to turn around and back up to the step using the walker, then hop up backwards on the good leg first. Bring the other leg up, step backwards and then bring the walker up. Be careful as you turn around.
If you have several steps, you will need a railing or an assistant on one side.
GOING UP STAIRS: Step close to the bottom step; turn the walker sideways with the opening of the walker away from you; place two walker legs on the step you are advancing to and two walker legs on the step you are on. Grasp the upper corner of the walker with one hand and hold the railing (or assistant) on the other side; push down on the walker to check stability and then hop up with your good leg first; bring affected leg up, check your balance, and advance the walker up again.
GOING DOWN STAIRS: Position walker sideways as noted above; grasp the upper corner of the walker and the railing (or assistant), as above; push down on the walker to check stability and then step down with your affected leg first; bring your good leg down, check your balance, and move the walker to the next step.
Safety is extremely important, so make sure someone is nearby to be helpful, if needed.