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Relieve Knee Pain Climbing Stairs Instantly With These 2 Easy Tips

Dr. Sisson/ March 31st, 2023

Why Is It Hard For My Knees To Climb Stairs?

There are a lot of different things that can cause knee pain climbing stairs, but generally there are three different broad categories:

Causes of knee pain climbing stairs:

  1. Pain inside the knee joint - i.e. knee arthritis or a meniscus tear.
  2. Patellofemoral joint pain - pain between the kneecap (patella)  and the thigh bone (femur)
  3. Soft tissue pain - pain from muscles, tendons, or ligaments around the knee joint

How Do I Stop Knee Pain Climbing Stairs?Pain inside the knee joint

What causes pain inside your knee joint when climbing stairs.

If you have knee arthritis or a meniscus tear, those types of problems are sensitive to compression.

While climbing stairs does cause compression between your joint surfaces, the bigger problem is when you have joint compression combined with rotation.

If you're twisting your thigh bone (femur) on the lower leg bone (tibia), it grinds the two joint surfaces together. This can be particularly problematic if you've had knee cartilage loss.

So how do you prevent rotation between the two joint surfaces when climbing stairs?

Most of the rotation in your knee joint is controlled by your hip. If your hip is weak, it causes your knee to go inwards and because your foot is planted on the stair.

In turn, that creates a relative twisting and side-bending of your knee joint.That creates compression on the outer compartment of your knee joint and it also creates tension on the ligaments and tendons on the inside of the knee.

A really easy way to prevent knee pain when stairs is to focus on turning your knee out slightly to activate your hip muscles. If you've ever done a clamshell exercise, it's kind of like doing that while standing up.

Now at first, it's going to feel like you're turning your knee WAY out.

If your norm is allowing your knee to buckle inwards, then keeping it in a neutral alignment with your kneees inline with your toes, it's going to feel like you're turning out excessively far.

So strengthening your hip does help prevent twisting your knee inward while climbing stairs.

What else can prevent your knee from twisting when climbing stairs?

If you have flat feet or tend to overpronate, wearing shoes that have good arch support and/or orthotics can be helpful.  If you don't like wearing your shoes inside, have a dedicated pair of inside shoes. Even a pair of slip-on shoes with arch support such as Crocs is better than nothing.

dditional Tips to Relive Knee Pain

Now there are some other tips that can help out with climbing stairs.

Stretches To Relieve Knee Pain Climbing Stairs

If your quadriceps are too tight then it can be helpful to stretch those.

If your calves are too tight it prevents you from getting the adequate movement in your ankle that you need to get your knee over your toes. Therefore, stretching your calves can helpful.

Manual Therapies Knee Pain Climbing Stairs

Whether you have an internal joint problem or a soft tissue problem in your knee, some types of manual therapies can help. That may include manual joint mobilizations to realign the joint and get it moving properly.

Sometimes that makes a pretty quick difference in the pain levels.

Additionally if you've got quad muscles that are too tight and are causing compression on the kneecap, hands-on treatment to get the thigh muscles to relax may also help.

That reduces the amount of compression force between the kneecap and the thigh bone.

Need Help For Knee Pain Climbing Stairs?

If you'd like to find out how working with one of our physical therapists can help you be able to climb stairs without knee pain, request an appointment or give us a call at (804) 493-3256