A walking stick is a tool used by many people to assist walking. Walking sticks come in many shapes and sizes, even leading some people to collect them.
Hemiplegic and balance-impaired persons use the stick to give them a better sense of the vertical position. Without the stick, it is easy to walk at an angle, and perhaps not move in a straight line. The stick is held in the stronger hand.
Muscle-weakened persons (with reduced strength or nerve action) need a stronger weight-bearing stick to take some of the load normally used by the weaker leg. Canes are generally used in the hand opposite the injury or weakness. This may appear counter-intuitive, but this allows the cane to used for stability in a way that lets the user shift much of their weight onto the cane and away from their weaker side as they walk. Personal preference, or a need to hold the cane in their dominant hand means some cane users choose to hold the cane on their injured side.
Walking sticks are used for hikers for a wide variety of purposes: to clear spiderwebs that have been built across the trail, to part thick bushes or grass obscuring the trail, as a support when going uphill or a brake when going downhill, as a balance point when crossing streams, swamps or other rough terrain, to feel for obstacles in the path, to test mud and puddles for depth, and as a defense against wild animals.
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