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How to Use a Walker

A walker can help patients move around and be more independent in their daily lives. It is important to know how to safely walk, sit, stand, turn, and go up and down steps. Using a walker can take practice. Each type of walker can be a little different. Patients may also have certain instructions or limits given by their doctor or physical therapist.

Read more about Types of Walkers

General Tips for Using a Walker

  • Adjust the fit of the walker. Check for correct height, and make sure that all 4 legs of the walker are the same length.
  • Stand up as straight as possible.
  • Place all 4 legs or wheels of the walker on the ground before putting weight on the walker.
  • Look forward when walking. Do not look at your feet.
  • Keep the walker close to your body for support.
  • Take controlled, even steps.
  • Watch for uneven, wet, or slippery surfaces.

How to Walk with a Walker

To walk with a walker, hold the handgrips, and move the walker forward a short distance. This is usually about 6-12 inches or the distance of a step or arm’s length. Using the walker for support, take a step to the middle area of the walker. If you have a weak or injured leg, step with that leg first. Then, step forward with the other leg.

Weight Bearing Instructions

Some patients use a walker to help with balance or weakness. Other patients use a walker because of an injury or medical condition affecting one side of the body.

If you have an injury, your doctor or physical therapist will tell you how much weight you should put on the leg. This can range from non-weight bearing (no weight on the leg) to full weight bearing (full and equal weight placed on both legs). You may be told that you can put a certain percent of your weight on your leg. As you heal and get stronger, the amount of weight allowed will increase.

    • Non-weight bearing (NWB) means that no weight should be put on the affected leg.
    • To walk with a standard or rolling walker, move the walker forward at least 6-12 inches. Without placing weight on the affected leg, support yourself with your arms and hop forward.
    • Touch-down weight bearing (TDWB) means that weight on the affected leg is limited to the toes only. The toe-touch provides balance, but very little body weight should be put on the leg.
    • Move the walker forward 6- 12 inches. As you step forward, you may place your toes on the floor, but most of your weight should be held through your arms and good leg.
    • Partial weight bearing (PWB) means that some weight can be put on the affected leg. This is usually about half of your weight.
    • Move the walker forward. Step forward with the affected leg while using the walker for support.
    • Weight bearing as tolerated (WBAT) means that there are no restrictions. The patient is allowed to put full weight on the affected leg. However, patients may need to work up to this. A walker can help with balance and support as patients return to normal walking.
    • Move the walker forward 6-12 inches. Step forward with the affected leg with full or tolerated amount of weight.

How to Sit and Stand with a Walker

To sit down while using a walker, back up to the chair, toilet, or sitting surface using the walker. Reach back for the sitting surface with both hands before sitting down. You might need to reach back one hand at a time. Sit down slowly, and use your arms for support.

To stand up from a sitting position, move your body forward to the front of the seat. Push up from the sitting surface with both hands as you stand. Then place hands on the walker. Do not pull on the walker to help you stand.

Safety Tips:

  • Keep all legs or wheels of walker in contact with the floor.
  • Do NOT keep hands on the walker while sitting down. Walkers are unstable and may tilt backwards if you hold on as you sit down.
  • If using a wheeled walker, lock the brakes before sitting or standing.

Stepping Up or Down a Step or Curb

To step up onto a step or curb, move close to the step. Place the walker up on the step. Using the walker for support, step up with your good leg first. Then, step up with your other leg.

To step down, move close to the edge of the step. Place the walker on the ground. Using the walker for support, step down with the weak or injured leg. Then, step down with your good leg.

Going Up and Down Stairs with Your Walker

Patients should work with a physical therapist before going up or down stairs with a walker. This is important for safety. Some patients may be told not to use a walker on stairs. Always follow the instructions given by your care team.

Using your walker to go upstairs

  • Walk up to the bottom step on the side of the stairs closest to the handrail.
  • Turn the walker sideways so the crossbar is next to your side.
  • Hold the walker with one hand and the handrail with the other.
  • Put the front 2 legs of the walker on the step above.
  • Support your weight evenly between the handrail and the walker.
  • Step up with your good leg.
  • Next, bring your weak or injured leg up to the step.
  • Then, move the walker up to the next step.

Using your walker to go downstairs

  • Turn the walker sideways so the crossbar is next to your side.
  • Hold the walker with one hand and the handrail with the other.
  • Put the back 2 legs of the walker on the step beside you.
  • Support your weight on your good leg.
  • Step down with the weak or injured leg.
  • Support your weight evenly between the handrail and the walker.
  • Slowly bring your good leg down.
  • Then move the walker down to the next step.

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