The Question of House’s Cane

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Mon, Mar 24 - 2:57 pm EDT | 10 years ago by
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Hugh LaurieThe show House has advisors to keep the show’s medical references accurate, but has anyone ever addressed the matter of House’s improper use of the cane? I had wondered about it myself a time or two, but didn’t pay that much attention because it’s not my area of expertise. But I just got a message from a real-life physical therapist, Dee Dee, so tells us the real scoop about proper cane usage:

I have been watching House since it premiered. I am a Physical Therapist by trade and watching House ambulate with his cane has bothered me since it first came on tv. I was taught in PT school (by lecture, by demonstration and by complicated math problelms) that you always carry your assistive device (i.e. cane) in the hand opposite the injury. House should be using the cane in his left hand NOT his right one. By using the cane that way, it applies less stress and weight on the injured limb, so less pain. Thanks.

Thanks, Dee Dee for the correct information!!

I tend to be generous with these sorts of things when watching TV shows, because without the info from professionals like Dee Dee I wouldn’t really know the difference anyway and I watch the show for the characters.

But now that we know the real cane scoop, what do you think of this information? Does it bother you to know that no one has corrected this? Does it matter to you at all? Leave a comment to share your thoughts!

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  • KittyLugnut

    As you probably know, this issue was actually addressed in one episode, when House’s shoulder was hurting and the physical therapist put his right arm in a sling and forced him to use a new (and ridiculous) cane on the left side. It didn’t even last half an episode, because House is stubborn and does things his own way even at his own expense. I see it as a character flaw rather than a characterization flaw.

  • confessing7girl

    This issue is not really a issue anymore… as Kitty mentioned above this while thing about House using his cane at the wrong side was clearly excuse in that episode where he had that shoulder problem.
    It was explained… and i know that science is pretty accurate, but i actually know a man that uses his cane in the right same side of his injured leg…
    Science is science but there’s always exceptions…

  • techspeaking

    David Shore actually mentioned it in this article in USA today from 4/17/2005:

    Claims that while using the cane in the opposite hand is what most people do, some people are just more comfortable using their dominant hand. (But, I have also seen numerous postings from Physical Therapists who swear that Hugh Laurie must be causing himself some severe back strain, if not actual damage, walking as he does)

  • Mel Mel

    My boyfriend uses a cane for balance as his right leg has problems and guess what? He uses the cane on his right side. He said he was told by his doctor that he should really use it on the left side but he said it never made sense to him as he needs the support on the right side not on the left. So I guess it’s whatever works for you!

  • JF Trochez

    Having had surgery on my right hip ten years ago, I am periodically in the need of support when the pain becomes more bothersome. Since my injury occurred, I have ALWAYS used a cane for support on my right side. When I used it on the left side, I felt even more pain than before, therefore, House, once again, is right about being right.

  • Mary

    Since I became hooked on “House M.D.,” I have been catching up with Hugh Laurie’s work on DVD. Interestingly enough, in one movie in which he appeared, “Cousin Bette,” he played a character who, at one point in the story, limped on his right leg, and used a cane in his left hand. So if Gregory House uses his cane incorrectly in his right hand, it’s not because Hugh Laurie doesn’t know which hand to use it in.

  • KittyLugnut

    Very interesting observation, Mary. I too have been investigating HL’s past work since “discovering” him through House, so I’ll have to put Cousin Bettie on my to-see list. :-)

  • bertas

    If I remember correctly I think I did read an interview with Hugh Laurie (for the life of me I cannot remember where) when he said he is having problems with his back and whatnot from limping all day long and using cane.
    Of course he brushed it aside but me thinks he would brush it aside even if he was in agony. If I remember where I have read it, I’ll leave a link :)

  • Judith

    I remember that on one of the talkshows Hugh Laurie appeared on, he mentioned that even though the advisors on the show tell him to use the cane the right way, he uses it the wrong way on purpose. I don’t know if he gave a reason for that, though. And I think Hugh said that he has a stone in his shoe to ‘help’ him limp.

  • heather

    I also read the article or saw the interview where Hugh mentioned using the cane in the wrong hand on purpose – it helped him to develop the character (the rules don’t apply to House, you know). I’ve also read that he has had back and neck pain from using the cane. I had to use a cane last year for an injury and due to an injury on the “proper” shoulder, had to use the cane with the wrong hand. It was true agony in my neck and upper back from leaning on it all the time.

  • lola

    Yeah, I’ve heard it’s done on purpose, because House goes against the flow. Heh.

  • Claire

    In an interview with Jay Leno, Hugh Laurie addressed using the cane in the wrong hand–yep, on purpose! He said he did it simply to “annoy physical therapists.” Gotta love him!

  • Janice

    I’m with everyone else and think it is silly that “Dee Dee” didn’t think the show knew exactly what it was doing. I saw/read the same interviews mentioned above where Hugh said the things about House doing things HIS way and them annoying physical therapists. :D Not an issue at all.

  • Bia

    You know, I read at House´s Forum at that yes, House uses his cane on the wrong way on purpose, but I also read that, ( and I am NOT a Physic Therapist) if the injury is ABOVE the knee, you gotta use the cane with the hand of the injuried leg, because your knee is fine, it can “handle” the balance of your body.
    But if the injury is below the knee, you can´t put your weight on it, because it´ll hurt and PAIN even more.
    (People, sorry if that´s anything written wrong here, English is not my mother language =S sorry. )

  • Grace

    I think and hope that HOUSE will continue for several more seasons. If this is true, I don’t think Hugh should use the cane and rock all the time.
    It will cause permanent damage. He recently said that he can’t play the piano for very long because his neck starts hurting. I wonder if that is from the cane or if he had that before? I think I sent Lynn that article.

  • Meli Melzzzz K.

    I’d use the cane like House does it, not because House is House (or Hugh Laurie), just because it seems right that way!

  • Tinker

    I, too use a cane in my right hand, and my injury is on the right side. I have tried it on the left, but can’t make the adjustment, so I intend to use it in my right hand forever.

  • Phil C

    I have arthritis pain in my right hip and use a cane on my right (dominant) side. I feel less steady with the cane in my left hand and I can take more weight off my hip by using it on the same side.

  • random

    house uses his right instead of left cuz he has a lacrosse injury in his left shoulder blade.

  • gimpy

    I have had a cane for nearly a year now. I can not use it on my left for very long (despite my PT warnings, my arm just can’t tolerate it much).

  • SuseM

    I’ve only been using a cane for about a month, since doing connective tissue damage through overuse of an artificial sweetener. When it became impossible to put weight on my left hip and knee, I began using a cane. Not knowing how to properly use it, I did an internet search and began following the instructions, which were to use the opposite hand from the injured leg. It has helped me a lot, and I don’t need it as much now, but that was the first thing I noticed after beginning to use it- that House was using it incorrectly, according to most experts, anyway.

    I yelled out, “Hey, he’s using the cane wrong!”, to which my son replied, “yeah, but even if he knows that, he’d still be rebellious and use it the wrong way”.

    Gotta love him!

    That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

  • Lynn


    Your son is sooo right!!! House is such a wonderful character. ;-)

    ~~ Lynn

  • Daniel

    On the matter of which hand House uses his cane in:

    I was wondering, how many PT teachers have actually gone through the pain of having a leg and back injury? I can say for myself, that despite whatever the MSPT claims is less pain, I can say for myself that it is much easier for me to walk with much less pain if I have the can on my injured side, keeping the cane always at my right foot. The illustrious PT has argued that i am in more pain if i do that, but its seems that its not the case. Close mindedness leads to stagnancy. Dependency on textbooks ends after class is over.

  • SuseM


    I think it just depends on why you are using the cane. Injuries differ, and putting weight on different parts of the leg probably change the way we depend on the cane. For me, it did help to use the cane on the opposite side from the injured leg. On the few occasions that I tried to use it on the same side as the injured leg I was unable to lean my weight on the cane. I was not going with a general consensus, I was just getting though each day the best I could. I think you are over-intellectualizing this.

  • Gary

    If you use the cane improperly as House does , then you’re NOT hurt and you DONT need a cane you phonys!

  • Jane

    The fact he uses the cane isn’t just because of pain. The character had a large portion of muscle removed from his right thigh so it’s not to take the weight off, he uses it to compensate for the missing muscle and weakness.

  • SuseM


    I use it because my hip and knee are weak from using an artificial sweetener( sucralose). While I haven’t had a large portion of muscle removed, I might as well have, since the connective tissue is now mush, and doesn’t support my weight well. When I try to use the cane on the weak side, it is very painful. When I use it on the opposite side, I am able to put weight on it to walk.

    When I see him walk with the cane on the injured side, it looks really fake. FYI.

  • Lacey

    House is using the cane on the correct side for his particular injury. That is just what happens- the injured person will do what helps them the most, doctors and PTs be damned.

    I also carry my cane in my right hand, for my right leg. If I carry it in my left hand, I can’t walk.

  • Doug

    I am a PT who happens to be stuck watching a House marathon with my girlfriend. Obviously it took me about 5 seconds to point out that House is using his cane on the wrong side. Since I am watching the 5th straight episode and I am bored to tears, I had to search this on the internet. I am glad I did, these responses have been more entertaining than the show. Anyways, a comment on the topic of the cane from a PT:

    Simple math can prove how using a cane on the opposite side reduces the compressive forces on your hip joint and increases your base of support making it easier to balance. I show all of my patients the correct way to use a cane. I also respect the fact that it is not my leg, my cane, or my life. If someone wants to use a cane improperly, that is their choice and honestly I don’t give a damn because I have more important things to deal with during the day. I also don’t want to hear any bitching about back pain that is the result of walking like an idiot because you refuse to use a cane properly.

    For some reason I think Dr. House would agree with my opinion.

  • Grace

    random: You may a point there. I didn’t know that he had a shoulder injury.

  • http://none Larry

    All people with 2 good legs gather in one room! I’ll smash each of you in one knee with a crowbar, give you a cane, then set the building on fire. While you’re exiting the building…pay attention to what hand you use the cane in.

    All you PT’s, PhD’s & others with 2 good legs telling us to use a cane on the strong side make me sick.

  • http://none Larry


    If you “don’t give a damn”, why are you a PT? Enjoy seeing others in pain?

  • SuseM

    Wow. Larry, you sound like a psycho gimp. Take it from a sane gimp: Not cool. Get over yourself.

  • Doug

    Larry – if you were walking on a metal beam above a pool filled with crocodiles, would you rather that beam be 6 inches wide or 24 inches wide? If you are arguing for a cane on the same side as your bad leg then you just chose the 6 inch wide beam. I don’t know why I brought that up, I know logic isn’t going to carry the day in this argument.

    To answer your question, I am a PT because I enjoy helping people who are willing to help themselves. If you are dumb enough to keep smoking even though you have COPD and have to use oxygen, that is your choice but don’t expect me to feel sorry for you. If you had knee surgery and you are not getting any better because you refuse to do your exercises, I don’t give a damn. If your back hurts because you are too stubborn to use a cane properly, why should I care?

    I am busy enough with people who are willing to do whatever they can to get better, why should I lose any sleep over the people who hinder their progress on purpose?

  • Greg

    Well, Bia is right. I’ve read that it’s all a matter of biomechanics. If the injury is above the knee, the movement profile is more natural when you use a cane on the same side as the injury.
    So basically, in the eyes of all his peers, House may be wrong when in fact he’s right. But then, it depends on what you’re taught in med school…

  • Doug

    This above/below the knee injury stuff is total garbage. If you want to talk about a swing phase problem vs a stance phase problem, then that is totally different.

    Ask yourself these 2 questions:
    1) If your goal is to take pressure off of your right leg, do you want to lean to your right or to your left?

    2) If you are leaning on cane, do you want that cane to be on the side you are leaning away from or the side you are leaning towards?

  • Greg

    Let’s forget about the pain thing for now. There’s this one episode (don’t remember which one right now) when House tries to walk without it at home and falls. IMHO it’s a problem of balance – missing muscles equals lack of strength – ergo: you need something to lean on to so you don’t fall. (Despite some inconsistencies in the series, when he’s able to walk short distances without his cane (excepting his dreams) that seem a bit illocigal, considering that one episode and maybe some others.)

  • Doug

    Poor balance does not necessarily mean lack of strength and vice versa. Right now there is a 19 year old guy that is a patient at our clinic who suffered a brain injury. He can leg press over 350 pounds but his balance totally sucks.

  • KittyLugnut

    1) random: There has never been any mention on the show of a lacrosse injury. I have no idea where you got that, unless you just made it up.

    2) Judith and Grace: Hugh was joking about the stone in his shoe. It’s a metaphor for something that makes your job more difficult. In his case, he specifically meant doing the American accent, but he then joked that the limp was an additional stone which might as well be caused by a real stone, because a real stone would make him limp. He does not literally keep a rock in his right Nike to help him limp – he just fakes it.

    3) Doug: could you explain swing phase and stance phase? they sound interesting.

    4) Greg: The episode you reference is Honeymoon (Season 1, Episode 22), and the scene is at the very end. In fact, it’s the last scene of the first season, and it’s a very moving ending. I always interpreted that fall as being caused by the pain of trying to walk normally – putting all of his weight on his right leg for a normal stride. He’s walked around without the cane before, yes, but always heavily limping, therefore keeping his right leg from having to support his entire weight for more than a split second, if at all. As far as I can tell from my research, House’s pain is caused by nerve damage from the muscle death and resulting surgery.

  • Greg

    Well, then he must be doing it to annoy everybody who “knows better” and/or because he feels more comfortable this way…
    BTW, interesting discussion, given that I’ve got a lot in common with House himself (according to colleagues and friends)…

  • Grace

    I KNOW that losing a leg is a terrible thing, but so is living in pain. Why couldn’t House have his leg amputated and fitted with an artificial leg.
    Wouldn’t that solve the problem?

  • Greg

    @ Grace: You’re right, it could solve the problem. But I remember him saying something akin to “I love my leg”. It’s nearly the same thing with the blood stained carpet in his office. If you view something as being part of yourself, you don’t wanna lose it.
    And who knows, maybe some people are what they are (or really good at wthat they do) because of living in constant pain…

  • Beka

    I’m 23 and have a knee injury that sometimes requires me to use a cane to get around. My PT taught me how to use the cane properly and I tried it for a while, and it never seemed to do much good. Not only did it make my knee hurt as much as it did when I walked on it without the cane, but I was always stumbling and ending up jolting my bad leg because it was so awkward walking with the cane on the opposite side of my injury.

  • Beka

    …hello misposting. To finish what I was saying, after a while I switched to using it on the same side as my injury and found that it made getting around a lot easier and less painful. How exactly, oh great PT commenters, is this BAD?

  • Dani

    I agree with Becka. I had the same problem and it was so much easier to use the cane on the same side of my injury. That way the cane acts like a leg. Otherwise to me you look a little stupid because your trying to use your legs sort of backwards.

  • Chris

    The issue is not what is right and what is wrong. Yes, there is a more medically smart and a less medically smart but think about it. If House was so concerned about being medically smart, he would not be a junkie. He uses the cane on the right side because it causes less pain, even the therapist mentioned in the article said that is what happens. The problem and the reason he should use it on the left is so that the right leg does not become so dependent on it. It helps the healing process to use it on the left but if House cared about the long run, he would not be addicted to painkillers.

  • Gary

    I have always used my cane on my right side / side of injury.. My ortho doc yells at me, but he knows I need the added leverage for my knee, so he lets it slide. My back never hurts.

  • devon

    i have to have constant use of a cane but my doctor told me there is no proper way to use a cane. you’re instructions are correct if you want to achieve balance. I limp in my right leg causing me constant back and leg pain. I find that if i support my right leg with the cane i achieve as much balance as if the cane were acting as my right leg (and also confirmed by my doctor.) so don’t feel bad to use it either way. also here is another quote from another “house” site:

    “it is not a mistake. Biomechanically a cane should be used in the opposite hand when the injury is at the hip joint. If the injury is at the knee or below, it is more efficient and more biomechanically sound to hold the cane on the same side as the problem. In House’s case the injury is involving muscles that are primary movers–specifically extensors–of the knee (he seems to be able to move the hip at will). It can be assumed, therefore, that the cane is to compensate for his knee instability; thus he is actually using it properly on the side of the injured leg.

    As someone who suffers from constant leg pain I would like to add that by carrying the cane on the same side as the bad leg you can put most of your weight on the cane and hardly even use your leg. If you use the cane on the opposite leg while it may help with stabilizing as you walk you can not put nearly as much of your weight on it thus putting more pressure on your painful leg.

    ” Bear weight on the proper side. You should hold your cane on the same side of your body that your injury is on. If you are using the cane for general mobility rather than an injury, hold the cane using your dominant hand and bear weight on this side of your body. This will make the cane bear the majority of your weight, as well as the impact caused by your motion when walking (eHow).”

  • Shan

    I’ve had to use a cane for years, have regular pt appts, the works, and I agree with those who say it depends on your injury, condition, etc. I do use my cane on the side of my leg problem and it helps a lot, but that’s just what works for me. (Love “House,” btw, but it’s a show, not an instruction manual.) My opposite shoulder is more thrashed than my leg, so carrying the cane on that side (dominant) isn’t usually an option, rebel inclinations or not. Some days, though, as most patients will tell you, it’s any which way you can and my pt says switching occasionally as needed reduces the constant wear and tear on one hand. It’s rare anyone using one has the exact same condition (s) in same place anyway. It’s a lot like choosing/using the right kind of shoes; what fits one person great can drive someone else to, well, feeling they need a cane (or at least six boxes of band-aids). Best solution for me I’ve found is to alternate between at least two canes, each with different-style handle. Best cane I’ve found for my use (esp. for longer distances, uneven terrain) is the lightweight sort with a shock-absorbing spring inside and putting 360 degree tilt tips (or at least a tip with excellent traction) (they sell ‘em separately several places online, can find with a short search)on all.

  • Sarah

    It was discussed in an episode. House knows he is doing it wrong. he just doesn’t care.

  • 2gators

    I’m a PT as well and while technically, the cane should be on the opposite side of the injury, I’ve had many a patient that cannot manage the cane in a non-dominant hand. Oh, and if we want to get really technical, a single-point cane is designed to be a balance point, not weight bearing. If you need to take weight off your leg, you really should be walking with a small based quad cane(a cane with feet) or a forearm crutch. And don’t believe the ehow article; lots more info wrong in it than just advising people to carry the cane in the wrong hand!

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