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Is Climbing Stairs Good For Your Knees?

Stairs are everywhere and when you have sore or weak knees, that can instil a sense of dread! Activities that involve bending your legs and weight bearing, such as climbing stairs, can cause pain and discomfort and may lead you to avoid using stairs as much as possible.

Our knees are complex body parts involving a network of muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bones. Although they are strong, they are vulnerable due to their intricacies and the movements we expect them to do, day in and day out. With that in mind, it can be beneficial to be aware of how we can best protect them, and this involves determining whether climbing stairs is good for your knees.

Before you move to a one-level home or beeline for the lifts every time you need to change floors at work, we can help you learn more about whether using or avoiding stairs is best for you.

Benefits Of Climbing Stairs

Climbing stairs can provide numerous benefits for your knees. Not only are they easy to find and free to use, but you also only need your body weight to provide sufficient challenge and gain results. 

Here are some advantages of climbing stairs that can positively impact your knee health:

Strengthens muscles in the joint and related regions

Climbing stairs engages various muscles in the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles. These muscles provide support and stability to the knees. Regular stair climbing can help strengthen these muscles, reducing the load on your knee joints and improving your overall knee function.

Enhances joint flexibility

Climbing stairs involves bending and straightening your knees, which can help to improve your joint flexibility. The repetitive motion of stair climbing can contribute to an increased range of motion in the knees for many people, reducing the risk of stiffness or discomfort.

Promotes weight management

Stair climbing is a weight-bearing exercise that burns calories. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for knee health, as excess weight puts additional strain on the knees, increasing the risk of conditions such as osteoarthritis and injuries. 

Boosts cardiovascular fitness

Climbing stairs can elevate your heart rate and improve cardiovascular fitness. A healthy cardiovascular system helps promote adequate blood flow to the joints, which can aid in maintaining healthy knee tissues.

When Should You Avoid Climbing Stairs?

Climbing stairs is generally a safe and effective form of activity to promote good health and to help you get around. However, there are some circumstances in which climbing stairs is not the best option. Certain injuries and conditions can worsen if your knees are put under the force that climbing stairs involves. This may lead to increasing your pain and reducing your functionality.

If you are wondering if you should adjust your use of stairs for the sake of your knees, talk to your doctor or one of our experienced physiotherapists. We can fully assess your health status and the condition of your knees and identify the best approach for you when it comes to stairs. This may include factors such as exercises to make climbing stairs safer for you, utilising supportive aids, and deciding how many steps you should climb each day.

Tips To Protect Your Knees When Climbing Stairs

When climbing stairs, there are several factors that can be beneficial to incorporate. To help prevent injuries or worsening your knee pain and to improve your safety while climbing stairs, it is worth considering the following tips. 

1.  Maintain an upright posture, engage your core, and use the handrail to distribute your weight, reduce the pressure on your knees, and prevent falls. 

2.  Take one step at a time and place your entire foot on each step. The position of your foot should allow you to softly push off the step with your heel instead of the ball of your foot so that your glutes undertake more of the work than your knees and quads, which are the weaker muscles. Leading with your dominant leg, or the one that has less pain, means that your weight is transferred into the stronger leg as you push upwards. 

3.  Wear supportive shoes that prevent your arches from collapsing, keep your knees straight, and cushion the impact on your knees.

4.  Undertake exercises and stretches, such as leg raises, that will help strengthen the relevant muscles and provide better flexibility and balance.

Physiotherapy Can Help You Climb Stairs Safely and More Effectively

If you are experiencing pain or weakness in your knees, it can be important to seek professional guidance. Climbing stairs can both improve and worsen your knee health, so it can be beneficial to have a physiotherapist provide a thorough assessment, identify your requirements, and develop a personalised program that can help you find better knee comfort and functionality. 

Please contact Powerhouse Physiotherapy to organise your initial consultation so that we can help you climb stairs more effectively and safely.

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