An Old Walking Stick Helps Me Move Faster, Reduce Soreness

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by Young Lee |

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My brother, 14 years my elder, tells me he remembers once losing track of 6-year-old me during one of our family trips to Washington, D.C. Specifically, it was at the Lincoln Memorial while it was fairly crowded. He tells me that when he found me moments later, I was in a corner by myself grasping the walking stick my parents had encouraged me to use, thinking it’d help me with balance and support during the long walks around the city.

But unusually, this time I was gripping the stick with two hands. And I had pulled off the rubber tip to expose a steel spike typically reserved for hiking through rough terrain. Apparently, to the shock and horror of my big brother, with the aforementioned steel spike, I allegedly was spending my time attempting to punch holes in the marble ground of a beloved national monument.


I conveniently don’t remember that specific moment of the trip particularly well, but as a whole, I have fond memories of the time spent with family in the nation’s capital, including what must have been my first experience using a walking stick.

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A couple weeks ago, I found that old walking stick while rummaging through my closet. That trip would have happened shortly after I was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). And my family would have been fairly new to the world of understanding the disease and what it would mean for all of us.

At the time, I never felt the need to rely on the walking stick to balance while walking, as my parents might have feared would be necessary. But I also don’t recall being particularly self-conscious or opposed to the proposition of being a kid with such a visible mobility device — at least not at that point in my life.

It’s always better to have something and not need it, and it’s always better to grow accustomed to something when it’s optional before it becomes a necessity. Besides, the stick was still a welcome assist when I felt tired after walking for miles around the city, something my parents probably foresaw.

With these lessons and thoughts in mind, I recently began bringing the old stick with me during walks around my neighborhood. And I’ve kept up that practice for the past few weeks.

I don’t require it for balance. Although I still have a “CMT gait,” I find I can walk OK without it. But the stick certainly doesn’t hurt. I figure that if a walking stick adds to my enjoyment of my neighborhood walks, why not? Why should I not take advantage of the option?

Granted, the benefits may not be huge. For example, a walking stick is certainly no substitute for ankle-foot orthoses, a type of support I’ve gone without for years but am currently considering using again. But the walking stick does help me put less pressure on the parts of my feet that sustain a lot of abuse due to my odd gait.

The stick helps me walk a bit faster, which is something I enjoy. And strolling with the assistance of a walking stick helps me feel a bit less tired and sore from my walks while still giving me a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

These days, if my neighbors happen to catch me on walks, chances are, they’ll see me with my trusty old walking stick. And I promise I’m not on the way to mar any beloved nation monuments — not that I ever did.


Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.


Michael Rovner avatar

Michael Rovner

Thanks for the article. I purchased a high tech carbon fiber walking pole and am using it without losing my pride. However, I've fallen softly in public each of the past two days, which REALLY bruises my ego. I'm 70 years old now and was suspected of having ALS onset about 6 years ago. For the last couple of years, the neurologists have decided I have CMT, a disease we briefly studied in pathology in dental school. I'm very reluctant to using a walker because of fear for becoming a spectacle (in my own mind).

Robbie McCully avatar

Robbie McCully

You incourage people to get treatment early on, but for people like me without medical coverage and for whom mda has refused to help, despite dna proof of cmt, because I am flat footed.
A fellow cmter suggested afos, as I was catching my toes after a bit of walking and falling. I don't like the look of them, but they certainly have helped cut way down, the whacking of my arthritic toes and reducing pain and falls. Ya, people look at me funny, but it is not nearly as humiliating as sprawling on the ground.
I am 64 and have cmt type 2b1/4c1 and 3/dejerine sottas. Also have psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia..

Richard Arsenault avatar

Richard Arsenault

60 here. I have late-onset CMT and my balance is diminishing. I've fallen backwards several times. I also have new 6-inch rods in my lower back; so, there's that.

When hiking, I definitely use hiking poles. I do try to walk around the neighborhood unassisted but it can cause real hip pain. Able to walk faster and with a better gate using a cane. Maybe I'll get a decent carbon walking stick.


michele avatar


I feel the same way. I think I would have had less trouble using walking aids when I was younger - in fact, I spent my teen years on crutches while having my 8 CMT operations - but now that I'm in my 60s I don't want people to think I am using Nordic poles or a cane because I'm old. Vain and foolish, I know, but that's where I am now.


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