UpWalker: A $649 Solution for a Non-Problem

Sometimes TV commercials are more entertaining than the programs. My husband and I laugh every time we see the commercials for the UPWalker on TV.

According to their website: “Unlike walkers that force you to hunch over putting painful pressure on your wrists and back, the UPWalker is designed to support you in a secure upright position giving you better posture so you have more confidence and less pain.” 

The TV commercials focus on canes, making the same claims. They say canes force you to hunch over and cause pain in the back, wrists, shoulders, etc. They show cane users hunched over and looking down, then show UPWalker users standing upright and looking straight ahead.  

My husband uses a cane. He laughs at those claims. He stands tall and looks straight ahead. He doesn’t hunch over or have pain in the joints they mention. Most of the cane users I have observed are also standing upright with good posture. I did recently observe one person who was walking hunched over and looking down, but that person was not using a cane, walker, or any other assistive device. The spinal deformity of kyphosis causes people to walk hunched over, but canes and walkers can’t correct that.

The UPWalker features forearm supports with handgrips in front of them, which they claim forces the user to maintain an upright posture. The comments from purchasers on Amazon.com are revealing. It is supposed to prevent falls, but customers report that it has caused falls that fractured legs and collarbones. They say it is heavy, hard to manage, and hard to get into a car trunk. 

They say it puts the weight on the forearms rather than on the wrists. But walkers and canes are meant to assist balance and improve stability, not to carry your weight! There are many videos on the Internet that provide clear instruction in how to properly fit and use these assistive devices. Users are told to maintain an upright posture. If they have to hunch over, that means the device is set for a shorter person and needs to be adjusted for this individual’s greater height. There are numerous illustrations of people properly using canes and walkers, and they are all shown standing upright with good posture and looking straight ahead rather than down.

Walkers and canes do not force you to hunch over or put painful pressure on your wrists and back. When properly adjusted for the patient’s height and used as intended, the patient should remain upright with any of these assistive devices and should not experience back or wrist pain.

UPWalker is not the only device with forearm supports. The original UPWalker sells for $649 on Amazon.com, and there is a lighter version, UPWalker Lite, that sells for $545. There are many similar walkers with forearm support that cost much less.

The company that makes UPWalker has invented a nonexistent problem so they can provide an expensive solution. It’s much less expensive to watch a video, adjust your cane or walker properly, and use it according to the readily available instructions.

UPWalker has many good features, including a seat and brakes. It may make users feel more secure and improve their mobility.  But if they think they need it to avoid hunching over, I have a “hunch” that they are badly mistaken. 

This article was originally published as a SkepDoc’s Corner column on the  CSI website

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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