Why Do I Suffer Knee Pain on Stairs?

Why Do I Suffer Knee Pain on Stairs?

Article by Zoe Russell

Knee Pain on Stairs: A Physiotherapist’s Guide

Why Does It Hurt My Knee When I Go Up And Down Stairs?

Navigating stairs can be a simple daily task for many, but for some, it’s a source of discomfort and pain. As a physiotherapist, I frequently encounter patients who experience knee pain specifically when ascending or descending stairs. This article aims to demystify this common issue, often caused by patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as Runner’s Knee.

What Causes Knee Pain on Stairs?

The knee, a complex and vital joint in our body, is susceptible to pain from various causes. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) tops the list when it comes to stair-related knee pain. PFPS is a condition where you feel pain around the kneecap, often accompanied by crepitus, a grating sensation. This pain intensifies when the knee bends under load – a typical scenario when climbing or descending stairs.

knee pain stairs
Knee Pain On Stairs

Recent Research

Recent research suggests that PFPS can result from an imbalance between the medial and lateral forces acting on the patella. This imbalance, caused by weak medial tracking (vastus medialis) or overly strong lateral forces (vastus lateralis and iliotibial band), can lead to patellofemoral instability. Furthermore, incorrect foot positions and postures on stairs contribute to the problem.


  • Pain behind the kneecap
  • Knee stiffness during flexion activities like sitting or driving
  • Knee pain during activities like running, squatting, kneeling, cycling, and stair climbing
  • Tenderness on pressing the kneecap
  • Crepitus or grating sensation in the knee
  • Occasional giving way of the knee

Treatment and Management

As physiotherapists, we take a comprehensive approach to diagnose and treat PFS. We look at all potential causes – from hip musculature imbalances to foot alignment issues. A tailored treatment regime might include:

  • Strengthening exercises for the hip and thigh muscles
  • Techniques to improve patellar tracking
  • Footwear advice and orthotics for better foot alignment
  • Management of acute symptoms through modalities like ice or heat application

What Can You Do?

If you’re experiencing knee pain on stairs, don’t let it hold you back. Consult a PhysioWorks physiotherapist who can provide a personalized treatment plan. Remember, early intervention is key to preventing chronic problems.


Knee pain on stairs, while common, is not something you have to live with. Understanding the causes and symptoms is the first step toward relief. With the right treatment and self-care, you can climb stairs pain-free.

Seek Professional Advice

If you’re struggling with knee pain on stairs, visit PhysioWorks for more information and to find a qualified physiotherapist near you.

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