A step stool with a handle is one of the most seems like an odd piece of “rehab equipment”, however, it is truly “worth its weight in gold”.  It is probably the one itemI can honestly say I use multiple times a day in my clinic. And, rarely as an actual step stool. Although, I am not the tallest tree in the forest so it does come in handy for use as an actual step stool as well  ?

But, back to the “non-step-stool” uses……..

1. Putting on a brace or shoes

putting on a brace with a step stool

Putting you foot up on a step stool serves two purposes. Obviously, it does bring the foot closer to you so to make it easier to reach. I know, not really “ground breaking” information. ??‍♀️But the other thing it does is that it bends your knee and you hip MORE than 90 degrees. And this is critical, especially if you have spasticity in your ankle. The more the knee and the hip are bent, the less likely the foot is susceptible to go into that involuntary pointing. If you have this, you know what a pain in the behind this can be. If you are a caregiver, you know as well. It can be near impossible. And the more you try and bend the ankle, the more it wants to do just the opposite. 

So, long story short, get a step stool and save the unintentional “morning workout” trying to get your shoes on. ?

2. A step stool helps with sit to stand and standing balance

 standing and balancing holding to a step stool

Anytime I am teaching a patient to stand up from a chair (correctly ?), I start with the step stool. The reason is, one MAJOR problem is that many people who struggle to stand up from a chair rely on “pulling up” with their arms. That can include pulling up by grabbing on to a family member, piece of furniture, car door, grab bar, door frame…..you name it. I have seen it.  Unfortunately, this is a bad habit to get into and one of the first habits I try and “re-direct”. 

So, what in the world does a step stool do to correct this? As you can see in the picture, holding on to the handle with the step pointing away does not allow you to pull on the handle. Well, you can, but you probably are not going to get very far ?A little (of what I call) physical therapy “trickery”

Wait!

Before you start calling me all versions of “PT = physical torturer” names, the step stool is ALSO helping you. By design and the laws of physics (man, I love physics), the stool IS giving you a very stable structure. To benefit from this “stable structure” (the step stool with the step pointing away)…… you need to lean forward. ?Yup, you can still use your arms to assist. 

And, it is training your brain to position the heaviest part of your body over your feet. 

3. A step stool is lightweight and easily mobile

A step stool with a handle is also great to have next to you whenever you need to stand.  It is at a good height to hold onto for added support.  Compared to a cane, it will stay upright and won’t tip over when you let go. And compared to a walker, it is small and can stay on the side of you. This is helpful in a close or a bathroom where space might be limited. 

4. A step stool is great for stretching

stretching holding on to a step stool

If you are someone who needs to stretch your ankles, 

The stool is perfect for that. The handle is at a good height to hold onto. Additionally, the benefit of being able to lean forward (slightly), helps to “deepen the stretch”. 

 

So, in summary, a step stool is not only for the “height challenged” ??‍♀️. It IS one of the most underutilized and most valuable tool in your rehab “bag of tricks”. 

 

Tip for the therapist: The bariatric step stool is much better. It has a wider base and is sturdier than a standard step stool with a handle.