As a Parkinson’s disease (PD) patient, you know that mobility has a major impact on the body. Due to the progress in the disease, you are confronted with challenges in gait – a walking pattern - leaving you susceptible to falls. The lack of muscle strength or inflexibility, imbalance, impaired cognitive reaction and fatigue or lack of energy are the most common and disabling symptoms in PD and have a significant effect on the patient’s quality of life.
Gait and self-walking difficulties are the main factors that contribute to walking problems. If you feel insecure when you walk or experience weakness, then you may be considering a walking frame. The symptoms of PD though, vary a lot between people. You should assess your daily routine to check which mobility aid can help improve your sense of independence.
The type of walking frames required will depend on the stage of the disease. Traditionally patients start with canes and then transition to walkers as they are more stable than canes or crutches.
The purpose of this article is to offer you an overview of the types of walking frames available, the useful features for each type and their suitability for individual PD needs.
Walking frames and rollators offer great benefits to its users:
- They provide stability and balance thanks to the wide support base
- They improve safety as they are strong and durable
- They reduce fatigue and pain as they redistribute the weight away from the body to the arms
- They enhance confidence as the user no longer is dependable for assistance to move around
You have the choice of several models and types of walking frames. Once you can differentiate the models from each other, you are well on your way to choosing the most suitable mobility aid for you.
Non-wheeled walking frames
Non-wheeled walking frames, also referred to as Zimmer frames, are made up of a lightweight aluminium framework with four legs. It surrounds the user from three sides. The walking aid has no wheels, but 4 rubber stoppers under each leg. The frame is there to help you and should require minimal effort. It is purposely made to be lightweight so that you can move it without exertion. Most of the Zimmer frames are used indoors.
This type of frame is recommended for users with a sufficient level of strength in the upper body and general balance as it requires to lift the frame and move it forward a step at the time. When you use the frame outside, make sure to keep to even ground as much as possible. The static walker will assist the patient to get up independently from a seated position. They are very popular with Australians with limited mobility over 65.
The advantage of a walking frame is to provide the user with the ability to redistribute the weight carried through the legs - transferred through the arms - to the frame. This can help reduce leg pain. The disadvantage is that it does not allow the user to adopt a fluent walking pattern. You have to keep stopping and starting with each step. In some cases, for Parkinson’s patients, it could be difficult to start the movement again.
How to use?
It is important to have the frame set at the correct height. The level of the grip should be at the level of the wrist, with the arms slightly bent. This position is the best position for weight-bearing. Stand upright and hold the frame with both hands. Lift the frame forward each step and then put it down with all four legs. It is safest not to try to move the frame too far forward; the best approach is to move forward just enough so you can take your steps safely and without added effort. Step forward with one leg whilst placing your body weight through the frame and then follow with the other leg.
What to consider?
It is important to realise where you will be using the frame. Check that the walking aid has sufficient space to manoeuvre and that it fits to go through your hallway or bathroom. Consider getting a ramp if you need to step over a threshold that might be hard to manage.
Our Walking Frame manufactured by BetterLiving has a durable aluminium frame made for everyday use. Designed for use indoors, this height adjustable frame features a stable base allowing use in most areas. It can be folded without any effort and the 4 rubber feet can be replaced. You can enjoy this walking aid for a long time!
Some people find a Zimmer frame difficult to use and tiring. They would prefer a more mobile base with wheels or wheels and glides.
Wheeled walking frames
If you are looking for a more mobile model of the Zimmer frame, than a wheeled walking frame may be the solution for you. Instead of two rubber tips in the front, these walking aids have two wheels or castors.
Wheeled walking frames are usually chosen over non-wheeled walking frames, when balance is the main concern opposed to the weight-bearing ability. These models are generally recommended for those who can stand with light support but require some additional assistance when walking.
How to use?
The user has to lift the back part of the frame fractionally off the ground to wheel or push it, allowing it to glide across the floor surface. This is easier than a non-wheeled walking frame. As the front wheels don’t have the capacity to swivel, the user has to lift the walking frame when turning. The small wheels make them more suitable for indoor use.
Another option is to add inexpensive glides or skis to the rear two feet of the frame. This can greatly increase the smoothness and manoeuvrability of the walking aid inside, as the person pushes the frame instead of lifting it up. They also help to prevent wear and tear on floors and carpets. Keep in mind that the stoppers offer more stability than skis.
If you are someone who is moving a lot, you will find a wheeled walking frame more suitable. On the other hand, if you put significant weight through the frame, you might unintentionally push the walking frame forward, especially for those with a Parkinsonian gait. Then this walking aid might not be the right choice for you. The solid wheels may require more effort to push over carpets.
Our Walking Frame with Wheels and Skis by BetterLiving combines the stability of a conventional Zimmer Frame and the manoeuvrability of a rollator. It has the option for two wheels at the front and two glides at the rear. Its height-adjustable frame is so durable that it can bear a maximum of 180 kg. An ideal device that can be folded with a single-button mechanism.
Folding walking frames
The great advantage of a folding frame is the fact it can be easily stored at home if it is not used all the time. It also makes it easier to fit in the boot of the car. There are a variety of mechanisms to fold the frame. Some users may find it difficult to fold a frame with press-buttons.
Some pulpit shaped frames have a different folding mechanism. Our Folding Walking Frame with Pull Ball by Days has a ball suspended between the top and bottom horizontal bars at the front of the frame. You need to pull the ball towards you, closing the frame as it pivots and the bottom bar meets the rear legs of the frame. This simple mechanism is definitely easy to operate for weakening hands although it does not fold as compact as other folding frames. Another convenient feature of the versatile device is the comfortable rubber handgrips for additional security. You might consider adding some skis or glides onto the back legs to enhance mobility.
A four-wheeled rollator
A walking frame may also come as a rollator. A four-wheeled walker will allow you to adopt a fluent walking pattern. This model comes with 4 large wheels (or large swivelling castors) that can swivel giving you optimum manoeuvrability and facilitating travel.
Wheeled walkers often come with a seat between the handgrips and a shopping basket where you can put small objects to carry along when you are going out. It enables you to move faster and use less energy thanks to the four wheels. You need a greater level of stability and balance to be able to use this walking device. If you require support walking outside, then a rollator is a great option.
The size of the rollator makes them very suitable for outdoors but if you have adequate space at home, they can be used inside as well. However, they may be too mobile if who need to lean or push against the frame to support. In that case, the frame might run away.
Our Rollator 105 Black by Days is made from a strong yet lightweight aluminium with puncture-proof tyres. This solid mobility walker can be adjusted in height to suit your needs. This mobility aid is specifically designed for people with weak grips, making them ideal for PD patients.
How to use a rollator?
First, hold the handbrakes. Gently stand until you feel strong enough to start moving forward. Now disengage the brakes. Keep your eyes in front of you and don’t look at the rollator. When you need to turn a corner or turn around, move in a wider circle instead of on the spot.
Features to consider with a rollator
Make sure to choose a rollator that has brakes that can be operated easily and quickly to keep you in control.
Pneumatic wheels provide better suspension than the solid wheels, which may offer you an advantage. Keep in mind that they will require pumping up from time to time.
This guide will help you to make a good decision to purchase the right walking frame for you. The type of walking frame will depend on your needs and desires and probably the stage of your PD. It is essential to obtain the right walking frame for your circumstances. making the right choice will hopefully have a significant effect on the quality of your life. Change your life and get more independent!
Need help or advice
Would you like more information on Parkinson’s Disease? Contact Parkinson’s Australia. Or you can call the National Helpline for Parkinson's on 1800 644 189 for all the necessary advice on Parkinson's Disease and coronavirus.