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Knee Pain Series: How To Get Rid of Knee Pain With Stairs

As we continue our series on knee pain, we get to the activity most complained about in regards to knee pain: the stairs. Sometimes people complain of pain while going up and down stairs and other times just one or the other. Regardless of when your knees hurt on the stairs, it is a huge frustration especially when you need to use stairs daily. The good news is that there are a few relatively easy ways to decrease knee pain with stairs and navigate them with ease. In this blog we will discuss tips to decrease the strain put through your knees as we go up an incline.

Using Your Glutes

A common theme throughout many of my blogs is strengthening and using your glutes or buttock muscles to complete different movements to decrease the strain on your knees. The same goes for the stairs. If you are able to contract your glutes as you step up onto the next step, the strain is taken away from the knee and our bigger, stronger hip muscles take up the slack. 

So how do you accomplish this? The easiest way to find your glute muscles and begin to actively contract them is to begin sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Press your feet into the floor and notice your bottom will raise up a bit. Those are your glutes contracting! The key to actively using them with stairs is the same concept; press your foot down into the step and once activated proceed to step up onto the step. Alternate right and left glutes in order to navigate the stairs reciprocally. 

But what if you can’t get your glutes to contract, or they don’t seem strong enough to lift your body weight up to the next step? Well, then it is time to back up and start with strengthening. 

Strengthening Your Glutes

There are many ways to strengthen your glute muscles and depending on where you are at with strength will determine where you should start, but keep in mind that each exercise needs to be moderately challenging and if it isn’t then you should progress by adding weight/resistance, increasing reps, or adding to the exercise altogether. The physical therapist can help you determine where to start and how to progress safely. 

Some of my favorite glute exercises that are relatively challenging to most and easy to progress include: 

  • Bridges

  • Glute blasters

  • Fire hydrants

  • Side steps

  • Sit to stand/squatting

  • RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts)

With each of these exercises it is easy to add resistance, reps, or progress the exercise to get it to a level of moderate difficulty. This is when you need to reach out to me or another great physical therapist to determine where you should start!

Putting It All Together

The only way for our bodies to make a change in the way they work or move is to practice the technique correctly over and over again. Our nerves begin to framework new patterns and tell the brain how to do it and also take notice that it doesn’t cause pain. So get to practicing! 

You will have to slow your movements down initially in order to get your brain and muscles to work together until they get the hang of it. I recommend standing at the bottom of your steps or a curb and practicing the technique of putting your foot up on the step and pressing it down, activating the glutes and stepping straight up onto the step then come right back down and repeat. Of course you can also practice when using the stairs by slowing down and stepping up one foot at a time with the correct technique. If you perform it incorrectly or forget, go back down and do it again because remember, that’s how our body learns! 

Don’t get frustrated if you can’t figure it out or you aren’t even sure where to start! You and millions of others have no clue also and that’s why I’m  here! Let’s start with a phone call; it’s free to schedule a phone consultation with me and then we can see what exactly you need before proceeding. Here’s a link to schedule! 

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