Chronic Pain

Tip for knee and hip pain: Go down the stairs backwards

When I first developed knee issues, I found it extremely painful to walk down the stairs normally.  I would limp down in an awkward way, trying to find a way to move that wouldn’t hurt my knees so much.  Of course these awkward, tense movements ended up placing a great deal of strain on my hip flexor muscles (the muscles in the front of the hips), and I ended up with some pain there too.

When I finally went to aquatic physical therapy, I found that the stairs to get into the pool were designed for patients to walk down backwards.  I was amazed at how much better it felt, and suddenly I couldn’t believe I’d never thought of it before.

When you go down steps forwards, your hip and knee joints have to bend significantly.   But when you go down backwards, your knees and hips remain in a much more neutral position, closer to the position you’d be in if you were simply standing up.

I started experimenting with going down the stairs backwards at home, and now I do it all the time.  (I originally discovered this trick for my knees, but found it to be helpful for sacroiliac joint dysfunction as well).

Sometimes, if I’m having a particularly rough day, I even go down the stairs backwards in public (it helps so much that it’s worth the embarrassment!).


The future physical therapist in me needs to say that I wouldn’t recommend this trick to anyone who has balance problems.  It does take some getting used to, and you have to be very deliberate about where you are going to put your feet.

But assuming everything is ok neurologically, give it a try.  Just make sure you have something to hold onto, like a wall or a railing.  And definitely check the staircase first to make sure there’s nothing there for you to trip over!

3 thoughts on “Tip for knee and hip pain: Go down the stairs backwards”

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