Date
22 April 2018
British Prime Minister Theresa May hikes in a forest with her husband Philip using trekking poles. Photo: Reuters
British Prime Minister Theresa May hikes in a forest with her husband Philip using trekking poles. Photo: Reuters

Trekking poles versus walking canes

Trekking poles and walking canes share the same purpose of providing users with extra support.

The fulcrum created by the stick allows the upper body, especially the arms, to share the pressure on the lower body while walking, which keeps the body in balance.

Trekking poles are ideal for hikers and people whose legs differ in power. The pole may also serve as a defensive weapon in face of wild animals.

Walking canes target a different group of people. It is recommended that senior citizens who have poor balance, poor eyesight and chronic diseases use a walking cane.

With the cane, they have extra support to stay balanced and a tool to fend off obstacles. Patients who suffer from arthritis, a stroke of paralysis or osteoporosis can avoid accidental falls and increase mobility by taking the cane.

According to a medical research report, the articular cartilage around the knees bears three to seven times the body weight respectively during uphill and downhill walking. Thigh muscles burn 21 percent more calories while walking on the hills. That said, proper use of trekking poles or walking canes can reduce knee injury while increasing strength and endurance.

Although both increase base of support and assist the lower body, trekking poles are not ideal substitutes for walking canes because their fulcrum is not as strong and the base may not offer traction on slippery ground.

Here are some tips on choosing the right walking cane. First, make sure the non-slippery rubber tip is in place. Regularly check to see if the rubber is worn out and replace it when necessary.

To choose the right length of the cane, stand straight on the ground and keep the arms on the sides with elbows bent at a 20-degree angle. The measurement between the wrist joint and the ground is the ideal length of the walking cane.

Aluminum construction is lightweight and durable, and is the perfect material for walking canes. Some pricey ones on the market are made of carbon fiber.A

walking cane can cost a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, depending on the materials and place of production. Nonetheless, all of them have the same function.

One may also consider using resistant gloves for extra traction. Bear in mind that a small handle is bad for the wrist joints.

Lastly, make sure the components such as the handle, the adjuster, the links, and screws are in place and replace them when they become unstable.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 6

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/BN/CG

licensed chiropractor and physiotherapist

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