Objective: To investigate the possession and use of walking aids among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA), and to identify factors contributing to possession and actual use of these aids.
Methods: A random sample of 640 patients with RA or OA was derived from a database of 6,500 registered patients. A total of 410 (64%) patients (223 RA, 187 OA) completed a questionnaire on possession and use of walking aids. Demographics, disease-related characteristics, and information about possession and use were assessed. Logistic regression analyses were used to determine which factors are associated with the possession and use of walking aids.
Results: Forty-nine percent of the RA patients and 44% of the OA patients owned a walking aid. Canes, forearm crutches, walkers, and orthopedic footwear were most frequently possessed. In the RA group, age, education, frequency of pain, and disability were associated with possessing a walking aid. In the OA group, age and disability were associated with possession. Approximately 30% of the owners did not use their walking aid. Factors associated with the actual use of an aid included higher age, a high intensity of pain, more disability, decrease in morning stiffness by the aid, and a positive evaluation of the aid.
Conclusion: Almost half of patients with RA or OA possess a walking aid. Disability, pain, and age-related impairments seem to determine the need for a walking aid. Nonuse is associated with less need, negative outcome, and negative evaluation of the walking aid.