Most people I have met, when told they will get a good caning or even mention of a cane, they shudder in fear. There is a misconception that all a cane is good for, is harsh punishment. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Depending on the type of cane, and style of caning, it can be quite relaxing and full of different sensations beyond the painful sting typically associated with this implement.
Different tools fall under the umbrella category of canes. True canes are usually rattan, which is a type of flexible, but strong reed much like bamboo. This is, in my opinion, the perfect material. It has enough spring (even the thicker diameters) to give a good sting, and strong enough to not break with heavy blows. Bamboo is more stiff than rattan, and hollow. It is good for light to medium blows, but, with heavier hits, can splinter unexpectedly. This can cause cutting edges; thus why bamboo is not recommended. Wooden dowels, from the hardware store, are not recommended for the same reason. Then there are acrylic or lucite rods. They tend to not be as flexible as rattan, and can break, but they are easy to clean and store. They also create a different feeling on impact. They do not have much give, and are good creating a heavier and deeper sensation on impact.
Depending on how one holds, and strikes, can change the sensations of any given cane. Holding high up on the handle, will give more control; while holding near the end of the handle, will help in creating short whipping strikes. Hitting with the section of cane that is closer to the handle, will give a much more solid thud. Striking with the tip of the cane, will give a nice lasting sting.
If I want my sub to enjoy the experience, and get a longer session, I make sure to warm them up before breaking out the heavy artillery. I enjoy giving just a good old fashion barehanded spanking to warm up the lower half of the bottom I am playing with. If I decide to use the cane on any of the upper half, yes you can use canes on a person's back, I will warm that area up with a quick flogging. This can also be achieved with a nice massage, which is a nice way to explore and take note of tense spots.
I start out with light and rhythmic strikes, warming the sub up with the sensation of my tool, steadily getting harder. After they are well relaxed and very warm... I will experiment with more shocking sensations. I will give a few taps to aim, then give a nice whirring wack. I will give them a moment to catch their breath, and relax, before I hit them again. After a few good strikes, I will, at times, change tools, or style, according to what I am trying to achieve. I like leaving good stripes down a sub's buttocks and legs. The thicker canes can be used to roll down the area, or give deeper more lasting marks and bruises, which is also nice.
I do not claim to be an expert in caning, and I had to do some research. I found several articles on the subject, but the one I took to be the most useful is this, really good, article on sensuous caning.