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Thread: Question about walkers

  1. #1

    Question about walkers

    Hi everyone,

    Since having sat still for a while (due to tibial plateau fracture and then bone infection), I can no longer walk with forearm crutches. This is because of balance issues caused by muscle and tendon contractures in my lower limb joints, which in turn are the somewhat predictable outcome of twenty-five years with cerebral palsy, plus a lack of daily, focused walking over the last year or so.

    However, because I can still sort of walk when I have something more solid and stable to hold onto (such as a table or a series of chairs), my physical therapist recently suggested that I might want to consider a key walker:

    As I understand it, these things are usually reserved for children, but apparently they're also made in adult sizes on demand. If I were to get one of these, though, I'd have to pay for it out of pocket, and I'm not entirely sure the investment would be worth it, since I can't personally think of any situation where using a key walker would either be more convenient, or provide better access, than using my wheelchair.

    So my question is this: are there people here who use a walker, and if so, why do you do it? Are there situations that I'm currently overlooking, in which being able to use this thing would clearly trump the wheelchair?


  2. #2
    Sara, I used an ActiveWalker for about a year before I got my chair. Now I very rarely use the walker (once every 6 months or so). Last time was when I needed to navigate a large grassy area that would have taken forever in my chair.
    TiLite TR3
    Dual-Axle TR3 with RioMobility DragonFly
    I am a person with mild/moderate hexaparesis (impaired movement in 4 limbs, head, & torso) caused by RRMS w/TM C7&T7 incomplete.

    "I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but what I don't think you realize is that what you heard is not what I meant."

  3. #3
    A walker is more stable than crutches, and certainly safer than the "furniture walking" it appears you are doing currently. If your goal is to get back to walking, it sounds like a good option. How is your grip?

    There are many different designs of walkers, wheeled or pick-up, some with seats attached, some with brakes, and even some that don't require a grip at all (forearm support or platform). A walker that folds is much easier to get into a car as well.

    The downside is that your gait has to be a little different with a walker than with crutches, and they do take more clearance through doorways, etc., and cannot be safely used up or down stairs.

    Folding pick-up walker:

    Rollator type:

    Platform walker (pick-up type):

    Rolling, folding, with seat:

    You still may want to use a wheelchair for long distances, travel, or community mobility. It is good to have that option for when you need it.


  4. #4
    Hey Chas (& KLD),

    I tried a walker not unlike the one in Chas's link not too long ago. Unlike the key walker, the ActiveWalker is pretty common around here, and easily rentable, because it's often used by seniors with age-related mobility problems.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't help me. I need to be able to 'hang' in the walker with my full weight: my right leg can't bear much weight at all (this is due to a trauma-related contracture, which means only the tip of my toes can reach the ground on that side), and I cannot stand on my left leg without support for balance (this is due to my CP).

    The key walker pictured in my original post is one with four wheels, but my therapist said I would probably need one with only two wheels (no wheels in front), so as to have a stable base that won't roll out from under me while I'm putting my left foot forward. This is also why I can't use a 'regular' walker that would go in front of me: I can't 'hang' on anything, unless I'm 'inside' of it. (Am I still making sense?)

    If I could use an ActiveWalker, then yes, because of its large wheels, I see a multitude of scenarios in which that might be useful, uneven terrain chief among them. But with the very small wheels on the key walker, I don't see myself conquering, say, a forrest clearing full of leaves and fallen cones. I think maybe my money would be better spent on a FreeWheel for that purpose.

    Lest you now think that I'm trying to find reasons *not* to get a walker, instead of reasons to go for it, let me clarify where this question came from in the first place. All of the reading that I've done (as well as what I hear at PT) suggests that for many reasons, walking can be therapeutically beneficial, even if it is not functionally useful. Also, as someone who was born with CP, but essentially lived a mostly able-bodied life for several years before that knee thing happened, I know for a fact that the only way to acquire and then keep *any* physical ability, consists of using said ability in a conscious and goal-oriented way.

    When I was sixteen, I had extensive surgery (in which several procedures were performed all at once) to correct all of the deformities that had been caused by my cerebral palsy up to that point. By the age of seventeen, I looked and acted like an able-bodied person in almost every way. It never came naturally: I had to think about each step I took; make sure I used every muscle the right way every time. But it worked. I was able to develop a much more 'normal-looking' gait pattern than anyone had thought I could, and I kept it up for the better part of a decade.

    Now, much like in the days before that big surgery at sixteen, my body no longer obeys me. No matter what I think, no matter how hard I try, I seem once again to have lost the physical capacity to do some of the things I want to do, such as fully extend my hips and knees while walking. I am losing the battle against the effects of my spasticity, and I know that sitting all day is only going to make this worse. But walking completely unassisted went off the table with my knee fracture a year ago, and pretty soon, common walking aids such as crutches and canes stopped being an option, too. Do I want to get back to walking full-time (or at least inside the house) eventually? If I can, yes, definitely. But I need to get my right knee fixed first, and right now, it's not looking like that will happen any time soon, if at all (although I'm still trying).

    For now I can walk, with help from my physical therapist, between parallel bars at her office. But that's clearly not enough, because I'm still losing ground (in terms of joint mobility) every day. So maybe what I'm looking for, first and foremost, is a 'mobile' version of the parallel bars that I can take with me wherever I go, and use independently.

    But I'm also realistic. I know that if I get a key walker, I'm going to want to try a lot of things for the first few weeks after I buy it, but ultimately, I'm only going to keep using it outside of therapy if I can find a few common scenarios in which, for some reason, using the walker trumps using the wheelchair.

    I'm not afraid of putting in some extra effort, if that means I can break the pattern of sitting down all day. But I don't live for the sole purpose of keeping my body in as good a shape as it will stay in. So before I clear out half of my emergency fund to have a key walker custom-fit to me, I need to think of a few things in my day-to-day life that I can conceivably do with a walker instead of a wheelchair.

    I'm hoping CC might help me think of some. It wouldn't be the first time CC has helped me come up with things I would never have come up with on my own.
    Last edited by Saranoya; 07-15-2011 at 10:34 AM.

  5. #5
    Saranoya, I have both a pickup and a rollator walker with a combination seat/basket and I love them - I mainly use the latter for cooking and carrying, as forearm crutches make arm maneuvers too clumsy. I go to the refrigerator or cabinets and put all the things I need into the basket or on the seat, wheel them to the counter or stove, and make a meal. Then I can gather leftovers and deal with them the same way - saves so much effort and energy. I also use the rollator to carry loads around the house - laundry, books, laptop, etc. And if I get tired, I can put on the handbrakes and sit for awhile on its fold-down seat. There are also days when my legs are too wobbly or painful to get around with forearm crutches, and I need to be able to put more weight in the upper body - at those times, I use my walker in lieu of the crutches. I use the folding pickup walker on days when I need unyielding stability. The rollator folds, too, and both of them are lightweight and fairly convenient to use and set up.

    There are many accessories you can buy for walkers that make them very handy, too. You can buy cup attachments, crutch attachments, trays, bags - just about anything. It's a good feeling just to have one in the house, for the security relative freedom they can provide. There are adapted tips you can buy for the pickup walker's feet, too - "skis," rollerballs, spikes for snow, etc.

    As KLD says, walkers are more stable than crutches. They have four points for balance instead of two, and the rolling type come with brakes in the handles to make them even more secure. So you can catch yourself if you feel yourself slipping. I don't think you'd be sorry to have a walker in the house, just in case - much, much safer than furniture- or wall-walking.

    Edited to add: Just want to emphasize, the walkers I'm talking about have four points of contact with the floor (as in the photos KLD posted) - wheels or rubber tips. The three-wheeled type are easy to maneuver through doors, but not nearly as steady.
    Last edited by Bonnette; 07-15-2011 at 10:40 AM. Reason: Addition

  6. #6
    Saranoya, thanks for the explanation. I was thinking far too casually. Your needs are quite different than mine. I have done much research on my type of needs, but none on yours.

    Keep at it; as you know, perseverance pays.
    TiLite TR3
    Dual-Axle TR3 with RioMobility DragonFly
    I am a person with mild/moderate hexaparesis (impaired movement in 4 limbs, head, & torso) caused by RRMS w/TM C7&T7 incomplete.

    "I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but what I don't think you realize is that what you heard is not what I meant."

  7. #7
    Sara as someone with CP who used a Kaye walker for many years... I wouldn't recommend it. Kaye walkers are HEAVY and you need to lift them as you walk. I used it in PT and outside of therapy when time/crowds/fatigue etc. allowed. It also requires you to bear the weight of your whole body through your arms. Because of this, pushing my chair, and crawling, I have some significant issues with my shoulder.

    Have you ever considered a standing frame for weight bearing and helping with contractures? This is what I currently use.

  8. #8
    Hi I use a folding one with seat it is old style roller with brakes made by invacare but on my excercise day's I feel safe with it plus I can sit if I get tired

    I try to use a walker but as I told Jody my hip bone hurts so bad that I can not really put pressure on it

    I use one leg and mainly drag my other one

    Even though mine is pretty old It is all aluminum , folds very compact and I like the fact that I feel safe holding onto it

    I can not use crutches because of my torn shoulder
    Heck I am falling apart as Patsy Cleine sang I am falling to Peices !!!!

    lol KLD posted a pic of mine hers is red but that is the style I have

    Have a good weekend
    GLAttachment 41184

  9. #9
    Thank you, Wheeliegirl & GL!

    It means a lot to me to hear from someone who is an experienced user of the Kaye Walker (and I didn't know it was spelled as Kaye, so thanks for that, too ). From your description, Wheeliegirl, it sounds like a Kaye Walker wouldn't solve my balance problem either. After doing some more reading, I'm guessing that my physical therapist suggested it anyway because, out of all possible walkers I could try, the Kaye Walker best replicates normal walking posture. But, if I'm not going to be able to use that independently either, then I don't see much point in getting it.

    I also want to thank you, GL, because you let me know that there are, in fact, people who use a walker even though they only have functional use of one leg. This means that even if the Kaye Walker does indeed turn out not to be a good option for me, I'm going to keep looking for something else.

    The above walker looks like something I might want to try. Ideally, of course, I'd want to go to a place where they have different styles of walkers that I can try out until I find something that fits me. My PT actually happens to have a bunch of different walkers at her office, but they're all in small child sizes. I feel like I'm on my own here, in trying to figure out what my next step should be.

    My PT has never before seen someone with CP who had learned to walk independently as a child, and then lost that ability well into adulthood. I'm seeing a CP specialist who's only now beginning to realize that it's not just children with CP who may want his help, but the things that he's trying to help me aren't solving my problem. The orthopedic surgeons I've seen specifically about my screwed-up right knee don't know what to do with me, either: there seems to be no reason to assume that there is still anything purely mechanical preventing me from moving my knee, but it's not just spasticity, either.

    Hence, I'm blazing my own trail here. Thank you all for your willingness to help me do that.

  10. #10


    Good morning Saranoya

    I wrote a article somewhere here about how I fel like 1/2 a person

    i/2 my body does not work good
    It used to bother me ( Brown Sequard Syndrome ) is the technical word
    I like using the walker as it gives me freedom also is safe for me .

    Do you use any crutches ? I been using the same old wooden pair
    since I was 16
    I just woke up so please excuse my typos

    Sincerely ; GL

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