Why You Have Knee Pain When Climbing Stairs

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An average person climbs between 500,000 and a million stairs in a lifetime. That’s a significant amount of stairs, and wear and tear on your knees. At some point, everyone (or just about everyone) will experience some sort of knee pain when doing this activity. If you find that it is happening to you more and more, keep reading. We are going to cover some of 3 of the main causes why people have knee pain when climbing stairs and what you can do about them.

3 Causes For Knee Pain When Climbing Stairs



Chondromalacia is a condition when your knees start hurting when you bend your knee and once straightened after bending. Just when your knee bends, the kneecap slides up and down the femur depending on movement of the knee. Inside the kneecap are two bones connected with cartilage, which eases the rubbing that happens with constant contact and movement. The pain, however, arises only from constant bending of the knee in activities such as climbing and isn’t much of a nuisance while walking.

  • What happens: With age and usage, the cartilage in a person’s knee starts wearing down. Worn out cartilage means rough texture between the rubbing surfaces which causes increased friction. When the bones start to rub up against rough cartilage, it can cause chronic pain. All activities that require bending of the knee more than 90 degrees will cause an increase in pain in patients that don’t have healthy cartilage.
  • What to do: Stick to low impact exercises such as walking and swimming, since they don’t involve a lot of bending of the knee. Other low impact exercises, however, should be avoided along with every other activity that causes the knee to bend excessively and harshly. This, combined with medications and therapy from an experienced therapist, will ensure that the knee stays in mobility while letting the cartilage repair itself.


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Tendon Damage

In medical terms, a tendon is a tissue that connects bone with muscle, allowing the muscle to exert its force on the bone. Tendons can easily be damaged as they are made of soft tissue.

  • What happens: Excessive or intense usage of the knee will obviously be accompanied by a certain stress put over the tendon. The tendon, tends to get damaged when put under excessive strain if not properly hydrated. This leads to the inflammation of the tendons, causing a lot pain in some circumstances. The tendon may also get exposed to tiny tears which are very difficult to recover from, considering the need for mobility every day.
  • What to do: You can opt for an X-ray or particularly an MRI to verify the tendon damage first. If the tendon tear is confirmed, you can then opt from a range of treatments that greatly depends on how bad the tear is. Little or minimum damage will require immobility by wearing a knee brace for 3 to 6 weeks and following therapy after the recovery. More severe cases may require knee surgery which aims to re-attach the tendon.


Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Common in young children under 16 years, occurring because of the damage in the yet undeveloped bone called the tibia. The pain is accompanied by swelling and outcomes of the disease are a bony lump in the upper shin after healing of the prolonged pain.

  • What happens: The bone in the upper shin, the tibia, is connected to the muscle via the patellar tendon. In children whose tibia hasn’t yet fully developed, too much strain on the tendon due to exercise will cause excessive stress on the undeveloped bone (tibia). In many cases, a small chip is pulled off the tibia and when the healing bone (callus) comes to the rescue, a small bony bump is developed which stays with the person for the rest of their lives. The pain experienced with this condition is fairly significant while it lasts, however generally it doesn’t last for too long. The bump is not painful, though.
  • What to do: Depending on the severity of the situation, Osgood-Schlatter disease can be treated by taking general pain relievers or in some cases, undergoing surgery if flaking of the bone has gone too far. The condition of pain is a temporary one and the fact that the tibia is still under development is somewhat good news since most cases of Osgood-Schlatter are healed once the tibia has a chance to fully develop. (Note: How fast this happens depends on the availability of calcium in the body.) Other times, you can treat Osgood-Schlatter using KT tape, which involves placing kinesiology tape around the area that is swollen. This helps to relieve some of the stress on the bone. The more severe cases may require surgery where unhealed areas of the chipped tibia will are removed or fixed.



Tips for Managing Knee Pain

Dealing with knee pain can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to manage it effectively. Here are some tips to help you improve your situation:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Extra weight can put additional stress on your knees. By maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise, you can reduce the strain on your knees and alleviate pain.
  • Strengthen Your Muscles: Strengthening the muscles around your knees, such as your quadriceps and hamstrings, can provide better support for your knees and reduce the risk of injury. Incorporate exercises like leg lifts, squats, and lunges into your workout routine.
  • Use Proper Techniques: Whether it’s climbing stairs or engaging in other activities, using proper techniques can help minimize knee strain. Avoid sudden movements or overexertion, and always listen to your body’s signals.
  • Choose the Right Footwear: Wearing supportive and comfortable shoes can make a significant difference in how your knees feel during daily activities. Look for shoes with good cushioning and arch support.
  • Apply Ice: If you experience swelling or inflammation, applying ice packs can help reduce discomfort. You could also try alternating between ice and heat treatments for best results.
  • Consider Physical Therapy: Working with a physical therapist can be beneficial for addressing knee pain. They can recommend specific exercises and techniques to improve mobility and reduce pain.
  • Stay Active: While it’s important to avoid activities that exacerbate your knee pain, staying active with low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or yoga can help maintain flexibility and strength in your knees.

As we mentioned above, these are 3 of the most common reasons why people usually have knee pain when climbing stairs. The most important thing to remember is to always consult your doctor if and when the pain lasts too long. What do you do when knee pain stops you from doing what you love to do? We’d love to hear how you deal with knee pain. Just leave a comment below. Until next time!
Disclaimer – We are not doctors here at SimplyJnJ. This post is for informational purposes only. Always consult your doctor before starting any form of treatment.

  • Arthritis Foundation: The Arthritis Foundation offers valuable resources and information on managing knee pain, including exercise tips and lifestyle recommendations. Visit their website at arthritis.org.
  • Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic provides comprehensive information on knee pain, its causes, and treatment options. Their website, mayoclinic.org, offers articles and videos on knee health.
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS): The AAOS website, aaos.org, is a trusted source for orthopedic information, including knee conditions and treatments. They provide educational materials for patients seeking to learn more about knee pain management.



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