Canes and Carpal Tunnel

Walking canes are a popular assistive device for those with mobility issues, but unfortunately, they can also be a source of pain and discomfort if used incorrectly. One common issue that chronic cane users can suffer from is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by repetitive motions and pressure placed on the median nerve that runs through the wrist and can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and fingers.

Fortunately, there are some simple techniques that can help you avoid this painful condition and we’re going to cover three tips that you can use to stay safe and comfortable while using your walking cane.

Anatomy of the Carpal Tunnel
The carpal tunnel is a passageway located at the base of your wrist. It houses the median nerve, which extends from the shoulder to the hand. This nerve is responsible for providing feeling to the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring fingers. Additionally, it helps control the muscles around the base of the thumb.

When this passageway becomes compressed, it can cause carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS results in pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the hand. These symptoms can make it difficult to grip objects or perform everyday activities. For example, holding a phone to your ear may result in tingling and numbness. Gripping a steering wheel, or even taking part in some of your favorite hobbies like knitting, golfing, or reading a book can all become cumbersome and painful when you have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Using a walking cane may exacerbate these issues, as the repetitive motions associated with using a cane can place additional strain on the carpal tunnel. For instance, if you are using an incorrect gripping technique or gripping too tightly, this can cause pain. Secondly, placing too much pressure on the wrist can cause it to bend in an unnatural way, causing the carpal tunnel to become compressed. Lastly, not having the correct cane to support your joints in your upper body can result in undue stress to your wrist and hand causing pain.

How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The following three tips can help you decrease or avoid CTS pain with improper use of a walking cane:

Change Your Grip
Change your grip slightly on the handle of the cane. Instead of gripping the handle tightly with your palm, hold the handle in your palm with your fingers and thumb in a more relaxed position. This will help reduce the pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. Of course, consulting with your doctor or physical therapist to have a more detailed description of how to change your grip is always recommended.

Take Breaks
Take frequent breaks while using your cane. Periodically stop using your cane and give your wrists a break by stretching your wrist and hands. Consulting with a physical therapist who will step you through the proper exercises and stretches will be beneficial while using an assistive device.

The prayer stretch is an effective way to stretch your forearms by placing your palms together in front of your chest just below your chin. Then by slowly lowering your hands toward your waistline while continuing to keep your palms pressed together this motion will offer a nice stretch in your forearms. Hold for 30 seconds. Then repeat 2 to 4 more times.

The wrist flexor stretch is another effective way to strengthen your wrists. You perform this stretch by extending your arm in front of you with your palm facing up. Then bend your wrist pointing your hand toward the floor. Taking your opposite hand gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a stretch through your forearm and wrist. Again, hold for 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 more times like the prayer stretch.

Proper Sizing
Make sure your walking cane is the correct height for you. An ill-fitting cane can cause strain on the wrist. This is because when you use a cane that is too short or too long, unnecessary strain and pressure is placed on both the hand and the wrist. Over the course of time these repeated motions can cause issues like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Choose a cane that fits comfortably in your hand and is the right height for you. Using a cane that is the correct size not only will ward off conditions like CTS, but it will also provide better balance and stability when walking, evenly distributing weight across the arms and shoulders.

Stepwise Cane™
The Stepwise Cane™ is the best option for you if you are having mobility issues and are in need of a walking cane. Its patented design has comfort and safety in mind for the user. Its circular base stays in contact with the ground while walking, which provides support and improves your ease of stride. It’s durable and can weather stairs and even uneven terrain. It will be there for you when you need it most.