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No matter how tough you think are, you’ll need some help moving around in the days after knee replacement surgery. Having the support of friends and family will be important, but so will the support you have from a walker, cane, or walking poles.
Each of these support items assists in different ways and it’s important to know the different options available. The differences are important to know and it’s also important to know the type of physical shape you are in so you can anticipate a quick recovery or a more drawn out, longer comeback. As they say in baseball, will you be on the 15-day disabled list (DL) or will you be placed on injured reserve (IR)?
In this article, we’ll provide information on walkers, canes, and walking poles. I’ll review the pros and cons for each and I’ll share my 2 cents about what worked for me. Lastly, I’ll recommend a few of the best walkers, canes, and walking poles for knee replacement recovery.
What Kind Of Support Will I Need After Knee Replacement Surgery
After your successful surgery, you’ll wake up in the hospital groggy but without pain. It’s good to know the pain medication works!
Your family will be there to greet you and there will be doctors and support staff at the hospital to make sure you’re well taken care of. These days many patients are up and out of bed quickly so you may be able to stand up the next day. If not, you’ll have a few days to recuperate – there’s no hurry, but also no time to waste.
If you’re like me, you will be hesitant to put too much pressure on the new knee. I remember standing and holding onto family, the nurse, or the bed.
It’s an uneasy feeling at first but the human body adjusts quickly. In the early days, a walker can be your best friend. Later on, a cane will do the job to ease your step, or maybe you’ll skip right to walking poles that provide good balance and shock absorption.
Balance will be key during recovery and it’s not unheard of for patients to be recovering from knee replacement and then fall and break a hip – another reason why it’s so important to go into surgery in the best shape possible.
What’s The Difference Between A Walker, Cane, and Walking Poles
Walkers, canes, and walking poles are all quite different in their appearance and use. They can be evaluated by appearance, design, and functionality.
If they were grouped according to speed there would be a clear winner and loser. Let’s take a look at each and go over the pros and cons.
Walkers are often associated with elderly people who have difficulty standing upright and walking. They have 4 contact points and newer models have 2 rubber ends and 2 wheels in the front to make it easier to move.
Walkers are bulkier compared to canes or walking poles but they provide greater stability. The user can put al of his/her weight on the walker using the hands.
I have to admit, I take pride in not needing assistance, but after knee replacement, the walker was the most valuable product I used. It was invaluable during the week after surgery.
As you can imagine, using a walker and putting more weight on the arms will relieve a tender knee. They are meant for walking, yet movement will be slow. Steps are taken, then the walker is pushed in front of the body so more steps can be taken.
Walkers, however, are slow and harder to move around. Sure, walkers can break down and fit inside a car trunk but it takes time to break down and a little strength to pick up the walker. They are lightweight but still heavier than a cane or walking poles.
Walkers are also more expensive than other methods of support, which is something to consider.
- Provides the most support for the legs
- Best for balance
- Uses both hands
- Usually has basket or space to carry belongings
- Wheels to make pushing the walker easier
- Can travel with it fairly easily
- Requires more effort to use (both hands)
- Slow moving
- More expensive
The Drive Medical Four-Wheeled Walker is a premium walker at a great price. It has more than the minimum and features 4 wheels, hand brakes, a basket, and a seat to rest on. If you’ll be recovering from knee replacement alone, this would a very helpful item.
I like the colors and the fact it folds up nicely even though it’s bulkier than a cane or walking pole. The wheels are oversized so it will do just fine on carpet or other soft surfaces.
It weighs 20 pounds and is 23” wide so if you’re traveling make sure you can lift it or pack it in the trunk. It has a height adjustment for short and tall people alike.
Reviews are solid with over 5,000 positive comments. Many people are buying this product for their loved ones and some people have returned to buy a 2nd one. Customers appreciate that it carries books or a purse and the brakes assist with control. If you’re dealing with a lot of weight after TKR then the support this walker provides might be what you need.
A cane is the classic old-school accessory. Sophisticated gents used canes that were made from rich mahogany. We see them used less for special events and styling, however, they are common among seniors who require a little extra support while walking.
Canes are simple compared to walkers or walking poles. They can be made from anything that is straight and long.
Kids often make canes from pieces of wood they find outside. Sometimes canes are carved using salvaged pieces of wood but more often they can be purchased as lightweight aluminum that will last forever.
Some canes can even be broken down to travel with. Most canes have a contoured handle covered with rubber or foam and a rubber base to protect the bottom of the cane.
- Simple – 1 piece
- Can be made from a variety of materials
- Good for casual walking
- Durable – whether wood or aluminum
- Can be stylish
- Easy to travel with
- Supports one side of the body
- Not good if having 2 knee replacements
- May influence posture to one side of body
The Hurry Cane (check on Amazon) is a good option for knee replacement recovery. I like that it breaks down small enough to fit in a bag. This cane would be perfect for helping get out of bed or off the couch – a big help in the days right after TKR surgery.
There are some proprietary features on the cane. 1) Is the flexible bottom of the cane and the 3-leg base? With the 3-leg base, it can stand up without falling over. These provide better grip on the surface while walking.
The handle is flat so a lot of weight can be transferred on the cane and away from your knee. It adjusts between 30.5 ad 30.7 inches and supports up to 350 pounds while only weighing 1 pound.
It comes with a travel bag, wrist strap and travel clips to boot! Reviews are excellent – most people are comparing it to their old canes that fall over or don’t break down. I like this cane for weeks 1-2 after TKR surgery.
Walking Poles (Trekking Poles)
Walking poles, walking sticks, or trekking poles can also be of value to people recovering from knee replacement surgery. The grip is different than you’d use with a walker or cane because the pole is taller (you hold them as if you’re giving a thumbs-up). With grip in mind, the amount of weight you can apply to the poles is less than a walker or cane.
They are multifunctional so in addition to helping with balance after surgery, they can also be used after you’re fully recovered and taking long walks or hiking. In fact, many people who have great knees use walking poles to help with shock absorption on their legs and feet.
I mention shock absorption because if used correctly walking poles can transfer some of the weight off your legs and onto your arms – weight dispersion. It might not be noticeable if used once or twice, however, over time the weight kept off your legs really helps.
Walking poles come in a pack of 2. Similar to using 2 canes, these poles are super lightweight and made for long hikes. Trust me, it’s much easier when the poles are extremely light – why can’t they make a cane that’s this lightweight?
The best walking poles use carbon fiber that gives extra flexion while walking. They also use cork handles (lightweight) that reduce sweat.
Most walking poles break down into a small bag, making it easy for traveling or keeping in the car. Some walking poles even have springs on the tips to give more shock absorption.
- Super lightweight
- Breaks down to fit in suitcase or car
- Carbon fiber and cork for comfort and shock absorption
- Provides great balance with 2 poles
- Taller than walker or cane
- Different grip – less weight can be rested on poles
- Probably not good for getting up off the couch/bed
- Usually more investment than a cane
I really like the Hiker Hunger 100% carbon fiber trekking poles (check on Amazon). They are an American company and the reviews are flawless which is a testament to their customer service and money back guarantee (1 year).
They are adjustable up to 54” and break down to 24” to fit in a carry-on bag or in the car. Each pole weighs only 7.6 ounces and uses cork grip.
Most customers mention the benefits of using them for long hikes and how the poles “save their knees”. Seniors mentioned how they are “lifesavers” and helped them participate in hikes they couldn’t otherwise do.
How Long Will I Need To Use A Walker, Cane, or Walking Poles
The length of time you’ll use the walker, cane, or walking poles will depend on a number of variables.
- Do you believe you’ll recover quickly?
- Do you have other health issues that will slow the recovery process?
- Are you carrying a lot of extra weight?
- Are you having 1 or 2 knee replacements?
- What if there are complications?
- Is someone around to help you?
- Are your arms strong enough to support your lower body?
- How long or far will you be walking?
Sometimes it’s difficult to know the answers until after you’ve had surgery. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. Evaluate your health – it might be a wise decision to invest in 2 of these items to make sure you have the support you need.
Maybe it’s a cane and a walker, or maybe a walker and walking poles will do the trick. Keep in mind that the first few days will be challenging but many people are up walking around after only a few days (albeit gingerly).
Where Should I Keep My Cane Or Walker
Early on, you’ll want to keep a cane or walker close by. That means keeping it near the bed or near the couch to help you stand up.
In another article, I talked about the importance of developing a recovery area in your house near a recliner, couch or favorite chair. I gave you a list of items to keep within reach.
A walking aid is a must. Even if you think you’re okay, always consider taking it to and from the bathroom and while bathing. If you venture outdoors it should be used.
As you improve, you might want to keep it by the bed or in the back of the car – just in case. I’ve improved a great deal but I’m still using my walking poles on my daily walks.
In this article, we discussed the different support systems available after knee replacement surgery. While family is important, this article focuses on the physical support you and I need in the days and weeks after TKR.
Although it was tough going early on, I was walking rather quickly and thankfully my balance was great. Depending on your individual situation a walker, cane or walking poles might be in order.
A walker provides the most support and is helpful for people having 2 TKR’s or those of us who are heavy. We can use both hands to take most of the weight off our lower body, however, that means we’ll also move a little slower.
A cane is easier to get around with but only provides support to one side of the body – newer models can even break down and fit inside a bag. Canes can be homemade or purchased as finished wood or lightweight aluminum.
Lastly, walking poles are great during recovery and for use long afterward. They help reduce the impact of daily walking by transferring some weight from the legs to the arms and the nice poles (carbon fiber) provide significant extra shock absorption. I’ll be using mine long after I’m 100%.
I hope you enjoyed this article on the difference between walkers, canes, and walking poles. Each of them can aid you in your knee replacement recovery. Thanks for reading – here’s to health!