Hip Pain Climbing Stairs? 6 Tips To Relieve Pain In Hip Going Up Stairs

Do You Get Hip Pain Climbing Stairs?

Watch the video to learn 6 easy tips to relieve pain in hip going up stairs.

7 Simple Tips To Get Rid Of Hip Pain by Dr. Dave Candy, More 4 Life Physical Therapy, St. Louis, MO

What Causes Hip Pain Climbing Stairs?

A lot of people who have hip pain climbing stairs think that they may have hip arthritis.

However, most people get pain on the outside of their hip when going up stairs, and hip arthritis pain is more often felt in the groin.

Many people think that their hip joint is the bump that you feel on the outside of your hip, but your hip joint is actually located in your groin. The bump on the outside of your hip is called the greater trochanter.

hip and pelvis

There are several structures that run over the outside of the greater trochanter that can cause hip pain climbing stairs:

  • Your gluteus medius and your gluteus minimus tendons
  • The trochanteric bursa
  • Your IT band

weakness in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus can cause hip pain climbing stairs gluteus medius and IT band can cause pain in hip going up stairs

So How Do You Know Which Structure Is Causing Your Hip Pain?

It truly doesn't matter that much which one of those structures it is, because the underlying mechanism that causes all of those issues is the same.

Weakness of your hip muscles is the underlying cause of pain in the hip when going up stairs

In particular, weakness of your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles is often to to blame.

These muscles help balance your body weight over your leg. When they're weak, your pelvis drops down and the hip goes out to the side. That pushes the greater trochanter outwards and into the structures that cross over the outside of the hip that I mentioned above.

That can cause gluteal tendonitis, hip bursitis, or IT band syndrome when you're climbing stairs.

How Do You Relieve Hip Pain When Climbing Stairs?

Well, if the cause is weakness of the hip muscles, then the solution is to strengthen your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles.

Clamshells are a common physical therapy exercises that people use to strengthen the gluteus medius, but it's not really a functional exercise.

You're laying down when doing it, and the load of just lifting your leg isn't anywhere near the effort of holding up the weight of your upper body.

So what's a better alternative?

One of the best ways to strengthen your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus is to stand on one leg and try to balance.

If you can't even STAND on one leg climbing stairs is going to be really difficult.

So it's a good idea to practice standing on one leg.

Get good at balancing on one leg, because it requires even more effort from your hip muscles when you start climbing stairs.

So if you can't balance one one leg and keep your pelvis level without letting your hip move out to the side, then balance is the first place to start.

The Most Important Tip When Climbing Stairs

The next step is to work on keeping your pelvis level as you're going up stairs.

As you push up the stairs, that requires more effort out of your hip muscles.

Which hip muscles?

You use your gluteus maximus (your butt muscle) to help you drive up the stairs.

Additionally you use your quadricep muscles to help push you up the stairs.

While you're doing those things, you use the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus muscles to help keep your pelvis from drifting out to the side.

When you're going up and down stairs, if you put your foot up on the stair and then think about just pushing your knee outward, that activates your gluteus medius and your gluteus minimus.

They're hip abductor muscles which means they push the hip and knee out to the side.

If you focus on pushing your knee out to the side as you're climbing stairs it keeps your knee from drifting inwards that way and stretching your IT band and gluteal tendons over the greaer trochanter.

So, that's one easy tip to help you climb stairs more comfortably.

But what if you can't do that?

Compensations To Help Relieve Hip Pain Climbing Stairs

Using the handrail can relieve hip pain when going up stairs.

Most people do this intuitively.

That's smart just for the sake of safety and fall prevention anyway, especially if  you have balance problems or hip weakness.

When you use a rail on the opposite side of the sore hip, it makes it a little bit easier to balance.

If you're standing on one leg, gravity is naturally going to tip you over away from the leg you're standing on.

So, if you have something to hold on to on that side, it helps counterbalance you and neutralize that force of gravity.

What if I only have one handrail on the same side as my sore hip?

That makes it a little  harder to climb stairs, and you may even feel as if you need to pull yourself up the stairs using the rail.

If you only have a rail on the same side as the painful hip as you're going up stairs, then you might consider using a cane to help counter balance you.

This is particularly important if you have bad balance or have previously fallen.

Going Up One Stair At A Time

If you don't have a cane or don't want to use a cane, you can go up the stairs one step at a time for a short period of time going "up with the good" leg.

Ultimately though, most people want to get back to being able to go up the stairs step-over-step.

Strengthening Exercise To Help Climb Stairs Without Hip Pain

If you can't go up stairs without hip pain, and you've tried try pushing the knee out to the side and that's not even cutting it, you can do some strengthening exercises to help your hip's work capacity.

It won't produce an immediate change in your hip pain, but over time, you'll be able to climb stairs more comfortably without hip pain.

Strengthening Exercise To Help Pain In Hip Going Up Stairs

  1. Stand sideways on the bottom step of a staircase with one foot on the step and the other hanging toward the floor.
  2. Keep your weight on your heel, and do a mini step-down.
  3. You may not get all the way down to the floor at first, and that's okay. Over time, you'll be able to go farther down.

Doing this exercise consistently will help you develop more strength in your glute muscles.  This way you can prevent your IT band, hip bursa, and gluteus medius and minimus tendons from being stretched over the outside of the hip when you're climbing stairs.

What Else Can Help Relieve Hip Pain Climbing Stairs?

Getting physical therapy can help if you get pain in your hip when going up stairs.

There are several physical therapy treatments that work really well for hip pain.

Many people who pain in their hip going up stairs have a trigger point or a knot in their gluteus medius or gluteus minimus muscle (or sometimes their piriformis).

Doing treatments such as manual trigger point therapy or dry needling can sometimes give quick relief in as little as one session.

I can't promise that 100% of the time, but there are many times where dry needling can make a significant or improvement in a single session.

Need Help To Relieve Hip Pain Climbing Stairs?

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