Get to Know Your Mobility Aids

If you have difficulties walking or moving around, do not fret. There are various types of mobility aids that can assist with your movement and allow you to get around easily with greater independence.

Underarm crutches men walking

Mobility aids are also called ambulation devices. They are a type of assistive device that lets you move from one point of location to another with added support. A lot of people can benefit from using mobility aids, especially when you have a physical disability, are recovering from an injury, or just have poor balance due to increasing age.

Find out which mobility aid you need by familiarizing yourself with each type and their uses:

Types of Mobility Aids


Underarm crutches

Perhaps you are already familiar with crutches for they are one of the most commonly used mobility aids to facilitate movement while recovering from an injury. There are several types of crutches, but the standard types are the axillary crutches. Axillary crutches are the type where you place its horizontal soft bar underneath your armpit. Another type is called a forearm crutch where you have to put your forearm in a cuff and hold a handgrip.

Generally, an axillary crutch is made out of two rods with a soft bar on top and a handle grip. The two rods are then joined into a single pole as they reach the bottom, and the bottom tip is covered with a rubber stopper to stabilize the crutch as you move.

Never let your armpit support your body’s weight by resting it on the shoulder rest of your crutch. Doing so can compress the nerves and blood vessels in your armpit, leading to a condition known as crutch palsy.

When are crutches used?

Crutches are used when you sustain an injury below your waistline. You might have hurt one side of your leg, you’ve got a broken bone, you pulled a leg muscle, you’ve sprained or broken your ankle, or you have undergone a leg surgery.

Crutches are ideally used to prevent the affected part from being loaded with stress too early. When you lean on crutches for support, this helps your injured limb recover faster. However, the use of crutches is not advisable for people with permanent disability on the lower extremities. These are only typically used for about 4-8 weeks when you’ve obtained minor leg injuries. Sometimes, doctors might advise you to use your crutches longer for a period of 6 months.


Woman helping elderly man with cane

Like crutches, canes help support your body’s weight. It can support up to 25% of your body’s weight. There are several types of canes but the following are the most common ones:

  • Standard walking cane. It is a cane stick consisting of a single point with a handle on top. It helps people with difficulty maintaining their balance while walking.
  • Quad cane. It provides greater stability and wider base of support since it consists of four points at the end of the cane.
  • Folding cane. It is used by people who don’t require much walking. A folding cane is portable because you can fold and store it easily.

When are canes used?

Canes are used when you have a greater risk of falling or if you have minor problems maintaining your balance and stability. Elderly people often use canes since old age also comes with balance and mobility problems. In the United States alone, 1 out of 10 people aged 65 years and above are using canes.


Walker, orthopedic equipment over white

In instances where you need greater support, you might prefer the use of walkers than crutches and canes since walkers can support half or more of your body weight. Walkers can come in a wheeled-type or a non-wheeled type.

For walkers with wheels, you just need to push it to move forward. However, if you have the non-wheeled type, you have to exert a little effort to lift it to move forward. Just a safety reminder, never put your weight on your walker if one or more of its wheels or tips are not yet on the ground. If you do, you might stumble and fall.

When are walkers used?

Your doctor might recommend the use of a walker if you have undergone a leg surgery, a total knee surgery, or a total hip replacement surgery. These types of surgeries put a greater toll on your body; hence, you need a mobility aid that provides greater support to provide you better stability while at the same time, allowing you to move about.


Nurse and senior man in wheelchair during home visit

From the word itself, a wheelchair is a chair with wheels. You can operate and turn the wheels manually or you can use an electrically powered wheelchair. You can maneuver your wheelchair in different ways. You can use your arms to turn the wheels, or you can have it pushed by someone else.

Maneuvering a manually operated wheelchair may take a lot of time to practice especially when you are turning corners. But if you opt for the power-driven type, it does a lot of things for you automatically.

When are wheelchairs used?

While wheelchairs provide greater comfort since the user can sit on it, the ones who generally use wheelchairs have a more serious mobility impairment. These are the people who are unable to put any weight on their lower extremities such as those who suffer from muscular dystrophy (loss of muscle mass) or cerebral palsy (uncoordinated/uncontrollable muscle movements). Wheelchairs can also be used by people who have amputated lower limbs.

Using a mobility device needs proper techniques and body mechanics. If you are not comfortable using one, or if you are not familiar with how to use one, do not hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for assistance and demonstration.

Though there are various types of mobility aids you can choose from, it is still best to ask your doctor about the best type of mobility aid you need to use for your current condition. When you’ve chosen the wrong device, it might only cause you further harm.