Knee pain while going downstairs?
Our friends at APOSHealth have written a useful article on just that, so read on to find out why this happens, what might cause it and how to help avoid it.
One of the most frequent complaints about knee pain is of aching when climbing up and down stairs. So, while taking the stairs is undoubtedly a great exercise for your overall health, it does put a lot of stress on the knees—especially when going down. So, although walking up and down stairs can be beneficial as a strengthening exercise, if it causes knee pain, it may be time to consult with your physician.
Knee Anatomy and Knee Pain
Your knee joins four bones: the femur (or thigh bone), the tibia (or shin bone), the patella (or kneecap), and the fibula (or calf bone). The tibia and fibula connect below the knee joint, the femur connects above the knee joint, and the patella rests on the femur and the connecting cartilage. These bones are, in turn, supported by ligaments and muscles that work to keep the knee stable and mobile.
When you bend your leg to walk up or down stairs, the patella slides over the femur (see above). In a healthy knee, articular cartilage keeps your kneecap stable and cushioned and provides lubrication to the knee joint. If you are experiencing knee pain when climbing or descending stairs, it is likely that the cartilage is damaged so that the kneecap is sliding out of position, causing pain and discomfort.
Going up stairs can be uncomfortable or even painful, however, going down puts much more pressure on the knees. When you go down stairs, the force on the kneecap is 3.5x your body weight. This means that if you weigh in the neighbourhood of 80kg, your knees bear a force of 280 kg For such a small surface area, this is a lot to carry—which explains why so many people struggle when descending stairs. Just for comparison, walking up stairs only exerts a force 2.5x a person’s body weight. Squatting, on the other hand, exerts a force of up to 8x a person’s body weight.
1) Knee Osteoarthritis
Over time, the cartilage that supports your knee can break down or degenerate, causing bones to move irregularly and without adequate cushioning. 4.11 million people over the age of 45 have knee OA in England – 1.4 million have severe knee osteoarthritis. Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include grinding or clicking in the knee when moving, inflammation, pain, and stiffness after periods of sitting or lying down.
There is no cure for knee osteoarthritis, but it can be addressed with both invasive and non-invasive treatments. AposHealth is a non-invasive, CE marked treatment for knee osteoarthritis with a patient satisfaction rate of 96%
2) Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is more frequently known as jumper’s or runner’s knee and refers to anterior knee pain. This syndrome occurs when irregular movement takes place in your patella (knee cap), often due to altered muscular control around the knee joint.
Patellofemoral pain may indicate a condition called chondromalacia patella. This occurs when the articular cartilage on the underside of the kneecap deteriorates, causing inflammation and pain. Symptoms include grinding or clicking in the knee when moving the joint or swelling and pain in the knee cap.
There are several reasons why you may be experiencing patellofemoral pain when going down stairs. It may be because of anatomical abnormalities, flat feet, or muscle weakness and can occur at any age.
3) Muscle Strain
Minor muscle injuries are usually not serious and will heal with time, but if the affected muscles are around the knee, this can cause pain when going down stairs.
4) IT Band Syndrome
This injury is often caused by repetitive knee-bending activities like running, biking or hiking. The iliotibial, or IT band is a tendon that runs from the pelvis to the top of the shin and over the side of the knee. Because of its connection to the knee, if your IT band is inflamed, you may experience severe knee pain when climbing stairs.
5) Ligament Injury
Ligaments like the ACL and MCL connect to the knee. If you have had an injury where these ligaments are sprained or even torn, this will cause lack of control and pain when climbing stairs. Knee ligament injuries may be serious and may require surgical intervention.
6) Compensation Injury
When you sustain an injury to your foot or ankle, it can change how you stand and walk. By compensating for the injury, you alter your body’s biomechanics and put excess load on the knee when going down the stairs. This can cause pain and may require biomechanical intervention to correct your gait.
If you are experiencing knee pain going up or down stairs, or in general, there are a range of treatment options available that are non-invasive and will likely reduce inflammation and pain.
One of the most common ways of dealing with knee pain is RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If you’ve injured your knee or are experiencing knee pain, these four at-home treatments can help.
2) OTC Medication
Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be effective in treating knee pain temporarily, but if pain worsens, there may be an underlying cause that has to be looked at.
3) Weight Management
Managing your weight can help reduce the strain on your knees, which, in turn, can reduce pain. Maintaining a healthy weight and balanced diet are also important for overall health and wellness.
4) Exercise and Physiotherapy
If you have knee pain, exercise and physiotherapy will strengthen the muscles around the knee for improved stability and mobility. Some examples of appropriate exercises include water therapy and gentle stretching. Physiotherapy can also improve flexibility and strength, even if the pain is severe.
5) Support Aids
Supportive aids such as walkers, braces and splints, or therapeutic taping may help reduce knee pain, but it’s important to ensure that you are getting the right device for your needs.
6) Biomechanical Devices
Devices developed to improve gait and reduce the weight load on the knee can help alleviate knee pain. AposHealth, for example, is a biomechanical aid that has been shown to reduce knee pain and improve gait for patients with knee osteoarthritis.
7) Prescription Medication
If your knee pain is severe and doesn’t improve with over-the-counter treatment, your physician may prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatories, or corticosteroid injections.
Knee pain can be debilitating and often appears when going up or down stairs. If you experience knee pain when walking down stairs, there are some easy things you can do to reduce discomfort and make stairs less daunting. There is no reason why knee pain should get in the way of your everyday activities, and if it is, consult your physician for more serious intervention such as wearing biomechanical devices to improve gait and reduce pain.
If you suffer from knee pain while going downstairs, click here to book in for an assessment with one of our experienced physios, or call 0161 832 9000.