When you have knee problems, going down stairs can become painful or frustrating. This can be unfortunate, especially when using stairs is part of your daily experience when running errands or going to work.
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Fortunately, there are knee exercises that can help you improve your mobility, increase flexibility of your knee muscles and make stairs less challenging.
Knee Pain Going Down Stairs
Knee pain going down stairs can strike at any age. One major cause of knee pain when going down stairs is chondromalacia, a weakening of the cartilage underneath the kneecap, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic.
Muscle weakness, injury or overuse can cause the condition, which is common among skiers, cyclists and soccer players. Tendinitis, an inflammation of the tendons in the knee, can also trigger knee pain when going down stairs.
Exercise to Help Knees
Exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee can help build up that part of the body and prevent pain when going down stairs.
Low-impact exercises — including swimming, riding a stationary bicycle and cross-country skiing — can all build up the inner quadriceps, which support the knee, while also being safe for the joints.
Exercises that help you lose weight can also make stair use easier because every pound of extra weight you have puts five pounds of pressure on your knees when walking down stairs, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Try These Specific Moves
Certain exercises can help build up the supporting muscles, as demonstrated by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. First, do some low-impact aerobic exercise, such as stationary cycling or walking, to warm up your leg muscles before starting targeted moves.
Move 1: Straight Leg Raise
- Lie on your back and place one leg straight out and the other bent with your foot flat on the floor.
- Lift the straight leg gently and slowly to a point about a foot off the floor.
- Hold the position for two to three seconds and lower the leg.
Move 2: Hamstring Curl
- Stand behind a chair, holding the back of the chair for balance.
- Slowly lift one foot up toward your buttocks so that your heel, lower leg and knee are at a 90-degree angle to your body.
- Hold this position for two to three seconds before lowering the foot.
- Repeat 10 times on each leg, working up to three sets in a row.
Seek Medical Treatment
If exercises to strengthen the area are not effective, you may need other treatment to resolve the problem and help you maneuver down stairs again. In some cases, surgery may be required.
Surgical methods to treat knee problems include smoothing out the surface of the cartilage in the knee or implanting cartilage from another area of the body to the kneecap to replace lost tissue.
Before embarking on an exercise program to improve your ability to walk down stairs, talk to your doctor about the problem and the potential causes.
In some cases, your knee pain may signal something more serious, and the best option for you might be to rest your leg and knee for a while until it heals enough for you to begin exercising.