If your home or work is accessible by stairs, then you’ll be familiar with the struggles of going up and down the darn things every day. For some of us, tackling stairs is a rare activity that can actually inflict or worsen existing pain in the knees.
Either way, we can agree on one thing: stairs can be unforgiving, especially when it comes to knee pain.
Here are some ways to take on those stairs and win.
First, what causes knee pain?
Before we get into strategies to help with getting up and down those stairs, it’s good to understand the causes of your knee pain in the first place. Once you’re aware of the causes, you can then better target your approach to overcoming these challenges, and with the help of a physio for knee pain, you might be able to say goodbye to the pain altogether!
Here are some causes of knee pain to be aware of:
- Weak or strained knee muscles. This is perhaps the most common cause of knee pain you’ll experience when going up or downstairs. This can be a result of natural aging or even a knee injury.
- Repetitive exercise, banging or straining the knee cap results in inflammation and can make climbing stairs a real pain. Make sure to rest and apply ice until the swelling has subsided.
- Damage to the knee cap. Whether it’s a breakdown of cartilage, or general wear and tear, the kneecap is a vulnerable bone that often carries the burden when it comes to climbing up and downstairs.
- Knee injury. Recovering from a knee injury – like a fracture or muscle strain – can be a long and arduous process. Starting to climb stairs too early in your recovery can put your progress at risk and even make matters worse.
If you notice symptoms aren’t subsiding, or you’ve just injured your knee, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How do I get on with climbing these stairs?
Knee pain can sometimes be crippling, but climbing stairs can be made easier – with the right strategies under your belt. Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Take it step by step
When faced with a mountain of stairs, taking a deep breath and going at it one step at a time is always the safest option. Instead of landing one foot on each step (or every second step), the slower, more calculated option of completing one step and landing both feet on the same level before taking the next one will take a lot of stress off your knee.
Think about it – the more time you take, the less painful it will be and the less puffed you’ll be at the top. Heading downstairs this way will also be safer and minimize the chances of slipping.
Remember, it’s good to be fashionably late.
2. Make use of handrails
Handrails don’t just make your journey up and down far safer, they also give you a great opportunity to take some of that weight off by using your arms and upper body strength to balance out the pressure on your knees. If there’s no handrail, sometimes a wall can also serve as a stabilizing tool, giving you the chance to stop and give your knees a well-deserved rest.
3. Lead with the correct leg
It seems obvious, but putting the right leg forward when going up or down stairs is critical – particularly when one knee is compromised. Remember, the first leg you put forward (your leading leg) will take on the majority of the work and pressure in the knee to essentially lift your body up. Going upstairs, the leading leg should always be your good leg. Downstairs, do the opposite.
4. Use a walking stick or crutch
A walking stick can be useful not only for tackling staircases but also in helping you maintain balance when you’re on the move. Holding the cane or stick in the hand opposite to your bad knee can help alleviate the stress on your knee cap. Studies show that using a cane can also reduce the effects of osteoarthritis.
5. Warm-up before using stairs
Nothing beats a good warm-up before starting your climb. Even a slight ‘bend and straighten exercise’ before you head up some stairs can help lubricate your knee joint, reduce pain and make your staircase ascent or descent much more comfortable.
6. Visit a physio for knee pain
Knee pain can be a debilitating experience – especially when stairs are a regular part of your day. Visiting a qualified physiotherapist can help you get the treatment you need to strengthen your joints and build resilience and mobility. Getting professional advice can also help you gain more flexibility and overcome the worst stairs can throw at you. Visit your local physio for knee pain today and get the advice you need.