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Walking sticks are used widely by people with arthritis, principally to reduce pain and improve stability and balance. However, they are frequently used incorrectly and can be dangerous if not properly maintained.Fifty randomly selected patients attending a rheumatology department were surveyed to determine whether their stick was appropriate to their needs and whether they were using it correctly.Of the 50 patients, 38% used their stick incorrectly, usually in the wrong hand. Forty-four per cent of sticks were of the wrong length and 54% were in imperfect condition, the main defect being a worn ferrule. Among the minority (18 patients) who had received instruction and training, 72% used their stick correctly, while only 50% of those who had not been trained used their stick in the correct hand where applicable to their condition.These findings highlight the importance of educating patients on how to obtain greatest benefit from their walking stick and of the necessity to check it regularly for defects to ensure safe usage. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.