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A Short Guide to Mobility Aids and How They Work

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Mobility aids are devices made to help people with problems getting around to move more freely and to live independent lives. They are useful for people with various disabilities, including leg problems, back injuries, and chronic pain.

Mobility aids have many advantages, including pain reduction and increased self-esteem.

There are several types of mobility aids on the market to take care of different degrees of mobility difficulties.

Here are some of the most common types:

Walking Canes

These canes work by supporting the body’s weight and helping to transmit the load from the legs to the upper part of the body. When compared to crutches, they take much less weight off the lower part of the body. They also place greater pressure on the wrists and arms. As a result, canes are ideal for people who do not have problems with their wrists and hands.

Assistive canes are great for people with balance problems and who are at risk of falling as they walk. About 10 percent of all the elderly over the age of 65 in the US and around the world use a cane.

The common types of canes include:

  • Forearm canes

These canes allow greater distribution of weight from the arm to the wrist, thereby offering extra forearm support.

  • Quad canes

This cane comes with four feet at the base to offer greater surface area and stability.


Just like canes, crutches transfer the weight from the legs to the upper part of the body. They help the user to stand upright when moving. Crutches can be used as one or in pairs even by people with permanent disabilities.

Common types of crutches include the following:

  • Platform crutches

With these crutches, the hands make the grip while the forearm rests on the horizontal platform. These crutches are beneficial to people with a weak grip due to problems like arthritis and cerebral palsy.

  • Lofstrand crutches

These types of crutches come with a plastic or metal cuff for the ease of holding the grip. They are commonly used by people with long-term disabilities to enhance their comfort.

  • Axillary crutches (underarm crutches)

Axillary crutches are designed in a way that the user places the crutches under the armpit and holds the grip. They are commonly used by people with short-term disability.

  • Elbow crutches

These are the most common single crutches on the market. They are single or double adjustable both at the floor to the grip and between the hand grip and the cuff. The elbow crutches have either an open or closed cuff to offer support to the forearm in the stepping phase of moving.


Wheelchairs are very common with people who cannot or should not put any weight on the lower part of the body. Other people with mobility problems can use them when traveling long distances. Wheelchairs are either mechanically pushed or electrically powered. There are also efforts to develop wheelchairs that are propelled by neural impulses. The most common types of this mobility vehicle include standard wheelchairs, standing wheelchairs, and sports wheelchairs for specific competitions.

Mobility Scooters

Mobility scooters are similar to wheelchairs, but motorized. They come with three or four wheels. They also come with plates where the user rests their feet. You move around by the use of steering wheels and handlebars. Mobility scooters are powered by rechargeable batteries and are ideal for people who lack strength in the upper body to use other walking aids.


Walkers are sometimes called Zimmer frames. Their framework is made of metal and has four legs that offer support and stability to their users. These are very stable walking aids even for people with debilitating medical conditions and the elderly.

Most walkers are made of a three-sided frame where the user is encased inside it. While walking, the user lifts the frame and places it in front of them. They then step to meet the frame which is in front of them. There are walkers with glides or wheels at the base. This makes them easier to use as the user does not have to lift them.

The following are some of the common types:

  • Rollators

These are very much like a walker, and they come with four wheels attached to the base. It also comes with a seat and handlebars to enable the user to sit and rest when he or she gets tired. They also have handbrakes to stop whenever they need to stop.

  • Knee walkers

Knee walkers are a mix between a rollator and a scooter. It allows the user to rest the knee of the weaker leg on a padded cushion as they move forward with the strong leg. If you are athletic, but with a hurt foot or ankle, this is a very fast mode of transportation. However, knee walkers are not suitable for people who are not somewhat fit because it takes some strength and good mobility in the working leg to use this device.

  • Walker-cane hybrids

This is a cross between a walker and a cane. The device has two frames rather than three, and one can use it with one or two hands. It offers better support than the conventional cane.

  • Pulpit frames

These are also called folding frames. Pulpit frames are commonly used for short distances. They come with four legs with two legs fixed together on either side that connect to a material that enables them to fold each on top of the other when they are released.


Your choice of mobility aid should be determined by the type of mobility difficulty you experience and its extent. The strength of the upper body should also play a part in your choice of walking aids. Of course, you should check the comfort and convenience the mobility device offers, as well.

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