Purpose. To study whether a cane improved balance recovery after perturbation during walking. Method. This study was a crossover comparison comparing the effect of walking with and without a cane for balance recovery after perturbation during treadmill walking. Five normal young volunteers participated. The velocity and acceleration of a marker sited on the seventh cerebral vertebra (C7) and vertical hand motion were measured by a motion analysis system. Result. When using a cane, C7 backward velocity increased by approximately 15% (413 SD 95 mm/s with cane vs. 358 SD 88 mm/s without). In addition, C7 backward acceleration increased by approximately 23% (3.2 SD 0.7 m/s2 with cane vs. 2.6 SD 0.8 m/s2 without) and the vertical motion of the right hand decreased (187 SD 98 mm with cane vs. 372 SD 260 mm without). Additionally, no subject was able to use a cane to broaden their base of support. Conclusions. The ability to limit trunk extension is crucial for preventing falls. Therefore, using a cane jeopardizes recovery from backward balance loss. The results encourage further research on the risk of a cane on balance recovery for the elderly population and habitual cane users.
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