Difficulty Climbing Stairs Causes

Common daily aches and pains can be a sign of greater underlying issues or the early stages of a medical ailment. If you have experienced pain while climbing stairs this could be a sign of a joint related health issue or a symptom of an internal condition affecting one of the body’s various systems such as cardiovascular or nervous. Difficulty climbing stairs causes can vary greatly and have several different root causes.

What follows are the most common difficulty climbing stairs causes, how to best approach each condition, and common methods of treatment.

Anatomy of knee muscles.

The Most Common Difficulty Climbing Stairs Causes

Knee Related Issues

In many cases, if you’re having difficulty climbing stairs various knee ailments could be the cause. However, despite similar symptoms (knee pain), the causes can be very different.

  • Osteoarthritis: is a common cause of pain when using stairs. Osteoarthritis tends to occur if you are over the age of 50, it is a degenerative ailment caused by your joints wearing down as you age. Osteoarthritis reduces the cartilage in the knee which leads to bone spurs. Symptoms can include knee stiffness, pain, a reduced range of motion, and swelling. There is no treatment for osteoarthritis, however, there are ways to reduce its impact. Common treatment methods include over the counter pain medication, exercise, knee braces, ice packs, heating pads, stair rails, injections, and increasing your overall daily movement.
  • Tendon Damage: the term tendon damage covers various injuries. In particular damage to the patellar tendon is felt when using stairs. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and inflammation. It’s a common issue with athletics and those in very active professions as overuse of the quad muscles can strain the ligament or cause small tears. Treatment can include rest, icing the knee, compression wraps, and elevating the knee as it heals. Commonly referred to as RICE this type of home treatment can greatly aid in recovery from common knee injuries.
  • Runner’s Knee: the most common of all knee-related injuries is runner’s knee. Despite the name, it does not just effect runners as it can also affect nonathletes as all of its causes are not related to physical activity. While related to the patellar tendon runner’s knee and its related symptoms are focused around the kneecap itself. Causes can include tight muscles, bad foot position or posture, weak muscles, or atomy issues with the knee itself such as its shape. Symptoms include stiffness, general pain, and notable issues when walking down stairs. Treatments include the above-noted RICE method, strengthening exercises, knee braces, increased stretching, orthotics, pain medication, and in severe cases surgical repair.

Other Difficulty Climbing Stairs Causes

While knee issues are among the most common causes of difficulty when climbing stairs, not all issues are related to joint health. There are ailments that affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems that can cause difficulty when climbing stairs. Often pain or difficulties when using the stairs may be an early sign of one of the bellow ailments.

  • Blood Clotting: blood clots are an ailment that can affect the lower legs. When these clots accumulate symptoms can include warmness to the touch, leg pain, swelling, discoloration, and the legs feeling heavy. The most common cause of blood clots is poor circulation and the most common treatment method is a perception of blood thinners.
  • Herniated Disk: a herniated disk can affect the legs and is found in young or middle-aged people more often as elderly people tend not to have this condition. Symptoms can include weak muscles, reduced reflexes, leg and back pain, tingling, and numbness. These symptoms affect the back and travel down to the legs often only affecting one side. Treatments include pain medication, ice, steroid injections, massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, and more rarely surgery.
  • PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease): is a circulatory problem where your limbs do not receive enough blood flow due to narrowed arteries. PAD is commonly caused by plaque build up in the arteries restricting blood flow. Symptoms can include cramping in the calves, thighs, and hips after climbing stairs, numbness, weakness in the limbs, discoloration, sores that don’t heal properly, and slower toenail growth. Treatment methods include lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, medication, and surgery to treat the underlying causes.
  • Femoral Nerve Compression: the femoral nerve is found in the upper thigh and transmits movement signals and sensations to major muscle groups in the leg. Damage to the femoral nerve such as inflammation, pressure, or injury can cause weak legs, groin pains, leg pains, and greatly limit the ability to use stairs. Causes aside from outside injury can include diabetes, tumors, pelvic features, and internal bleeding. Due to having so many different root causes treatment greatly depends on what caused the condition in the first place, however, treatment methods include therapy, medication, or surgery.
  • Weak Leg Muscles: lastly, when considering difficulty climbing stairs causes your ailment may not be medical at all. A lack of physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle, or a career seated at a desk can mean your leg muscles are simply not receiving sufficient use. Regular workouts a few times a week can strengthen leg muscles and reduce movement related difficulties. Be sure to consult your doctor or a health professional for the safest and most effective workout for your health-related needs.

Final Considerations

As the above information shows, difficulty climbing stairs causes cover an assortment of different ailments and injuries. Some of the causes are as simple as sports injuries and may only require rest and recovery. While others such as blood clots can lead to far more damaging health concerns if left untreated. The important thing to understand is that problems walking up stairs merely point to an underlying cause that can greatly vary in its impact on your overall health.

If you notice such difficulties schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine what is causing your symptoms. Once you are fully aware of what the underlying ailment is your physician can then advise the next course action and the best approach to your treatment.

 

Knee Pain After Running

The term runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is a common condition occurring in people who experience knee pain after running. Although not typically debilitating, this condition can cause significant pain in the knee joint which worsens over time if corrective measures are not taken. In the majority of cases, when pain is addressed quickly, simple treatments and/or alterations encourage marked improvements while allowing you to continue with or return to the sport of running without an extensive delay.

Runner’s Knee Has Specific Characteristics

PFPS is characterized by a specific type of knee pain which originates below the kneecap itself, often on the upper end where the thigh muscles and the kneecap meet. Pain is typically felt when the knee is in a bent position, whether while running, walking, bending, or even sitting. Inflammation is also typically present. When symptoms first begin, you may only notice knee pain after running, but continuing with the same workout routine without making adjustments will likely lead to a steady increase in the frequency of symptoms, until eventually, you experience pain even in sedentary situations.

Numerous Factors Are Responsible for PFPS

Knee pain after running is attributed to a number of causative factors, including:

  • Misalignment of the kneecap, or patella, which forces your knee to bear weight unevenly.
  • Weak thigh muscles, which may be the underlying factor behind a misaligned patella. The vastus lateralis, or most lateral quadricep muscle, is often stronger than the other three quad muscles, and can pull the patella laterally as it overpowers the weaker muscles.
  • Fallen arches or overpronation, known as flat feet. Under the impact of running, the arches of the feet can collapse, causing extreme impact on the knee joint due to excessive stretching of the muscles and tendons.
  • Overuse of the knees, as repetitive bending can irritate the nerve endings behind the kneecap.

Human knee quadracept

Those who choose to have a professional diagnosis for their knee pain after running will typically undergo a physical exam as well as x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, etc. However, research has shown no obvious structural damage is typically present with PFPS; rather, the condition is described as a chronic stimulation of the nerve endings in the knee joint, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Allow Your Knee to Heal to Avoid Further Damage

Although consulting with your doctor is always wise with any injury, in the case of PFPS, treatment can often be carried out at home with no medical intervention. First and foremost, any activity which you know causes knee pain should be ceased to avoid further irritation or damage to the knee itself. If your PFPS has become so severe that you are unable to run at all without experiencing knee pain after running, than a complete break from running will be in order to allow your knee to properly heal.

Many runners, however, are able to run for a certain amount of time or for a certain distance without experiencing any knee pain after running. If, for example, pain begins after 30 minutes of running, you may be able to safely run for 20 minutes during a session. Some runners may be able to run every other day, but not on consecutive days. The general idea is to run as much as your body allows, but not push beyond what is comfortable, to keep your knees accustomed to running while still allowing natural healing to occur. After a few weeks, try increasing the amount of time you spend running to see if your pain limits have improved.

Simple Treatment Measures Provide Pain Relief

In addition to adjusting your running schedule, any or all of the following are likely to provide relief from the symptoms of PFPS:

  • Resting your knee throughout the day; elevate your knee while sitting or lying down to reduce inflammation.
  • Applying ice packs to your knee for 20-30 minutes, 3 or 4 times each day, until pain subsides.
  • Providing extra knee support with an elastic bandage or strap, especially while running.
  • Stretching and strengthening your thigh muscles to encourage proper alignment and tracking of your kneecap.
  • Wearing comfortable running shoes with arch supports to help reduce pain resulting from flat feet.
  • Avoiding running on concrete or on uneven ground.
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help reduce inflammation.

Although knee pain after running is likely to worsen if ignored, only extreme cases require medical intervention such as surgery to fully heal. The key with PFPS is to listen to your body and never push yourself beyond a comfortable amount of running. Remember, your knee cannot heal when you are experiencing pain. Try cross training activities such as bicycling or swimming to stay fit while in recovery, or just to mix up your fitness routine to lessen the stress on those knee joints.

 

Knee Injuries

The knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in your body. It’s comprised of bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.

  • Two major bones meet to form the joint: the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). The fibula is located alongside the tibia on the back of the knee, and a fourth small bone, the patella or kneecap, rests on the front to help protect the joint.
  • In between the femur and tibia are two wedge-shaped sections of tough, rubbery cartilage, the menisci, which act as shock absorbers.
  • Four rope-like ligaments hold the bones together and stabilize the knee.
  • Tendons connect the upper and lower leg muscles to the bones to facilitate joint movement.

Human knee joint anatomy

In addition to bending, your knee is designed move side to side, push, twist and withstand significant pressure. Its complexity and location leave the joint vulnerable to injuries, which can happen if a knee receives a direct blow, is twisted beyond its tolerance, gets landed on in a fall, or is simply overused.

Here are some of the most common types of knee injuries, along with their symptoms and usual treatments.

Ligament Injuries

The tough, thick ligaments that stabilize the knee are the medial collateral ligament (MCL) along the outside, the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) along the inside, and two cruciate ligaments that form an “x” in the center of the joint. In the wrong circumstances, these ligaments can become sprained by being stretched, partially ruptured or completely torn.

— A blow to either side of the knee while your leg is stretched out can injure the MCL or LCL. Symptoms can include pain on the affected side of the knee, joint instability and difficulty walking. Often, little swelling occurs when these ligaments are injured.

knee ligament

  • Rest, compression, icing and elevation are often the recommended treatments for these knee injuries, along with immobilizing and stabilizing the joint with a removable splint. Healing from minor or moderate damage may take a few weeks. The need for surgery and a prolonged long recovery time are only likely when multiple ligaments and other structures of the joint are damaged.

— Stretching or tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can happen during a fall, or by simply landing on your leg and then twisting or pivoting the knee. Injuries to the wider posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are less common, and they’re often the result of a violent impact, such as your knee hitting the dashboard in a car accident. With both of these types of knee injuries, swelling occurs rapidly, and bending the joint is painful and very difficult.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, icing, compression, rest and elevation are typically used as initial treatments. Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery and/or physical therapy may also be necessary. Returning to full functionality after an ACL or PCL injury can take several months.

Muscle and Tendon Injuries

The knee is extended and flexed by two main thigh muscle groups: the quadriceps on the front of the leg, and the hamstrings on the back. The strong, elastic tendons that attach the leg muscles to the bones include the quadriceps and patellar tendons on the front, and the hamstring tendon on the back. There are various types of muscle and tendon injuries that affect the knee.

— Muscle contusions and tears known as strains can be caused by overuse, sudden twisting or an impact, resulting in pain, swelling and stiffness.

  • Minor strains tend to heal quickly with rest, icing, elevation and the use of an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever.
  • More serious injuries can also require compression with a knee sleeve and physical therapy. While these strains may take longer to heal, surgery is rarely needed.

— Over-flexing or overextending the knee can result in torn or detached tendons. If a tendon tears, you’ll experience swelling and pain when you attempt to flex or extend the knee. If trauma causes a tendon to detach from the bone, you may feel a sudden, noticable “snap.” You’ll also suffer pain, and a loss of stability and normal movement in bending or straightening the leg.

  • In order for a partially torn tendon to heal, it’s typically necessary to completely immobilize the knee in a brace or cast for several weeks.
  • A completely torn tendon requires surgical reattachment, followed by a longer recovery period.
  • With both these types of knee injuries, physical therapy is often necessary to restore flexibility and strength in your knee and leg.

Cartilage Injuries

Hyper-flexing or severely twisting your knee can pinch and tear the C-shaped cartilage pads, or menisci, located between the thigh and shin bones. After a cartilage tear, you’ll have pain and swelling that develops relatively slowly over a number of hours. You may notice popping in the knee, and it can also buckle unexpectedly. If the injury isn’t treated, these symptoms can continue intermittently, usually when you’re climbing stairs or walking uphill.

Meniscal Tear

  • Once a cartilage tear is diagnosed, physical therapy is often recommended to strengthen the muscles and stabilize the joint. If the symptoms don’t subside, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn cartilage.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse that puts repeated, prolonged pressure on your knee can cause irritation of the tissues and joint structures, leading to localized pain during movement, swelling and instability. These types of knee injuries often occur during athletic training or when playing sports, or they result from activities such as running, jogging and bike riding. Age and excess weight are other contributing factors. Common overuse knee injuries include:

— Bursitis, which is painful inflammation of the fluid-filled bursa sacs around the knee that cushion and lubricate the joint.

Plica syndrome, where a thickened or folded inner knee ligament becomes irritated and inflamed.

Patellofemoral syndrome, which causes pain in the front of the knee when it’s bent.

Iliotibial band syndrome, where the fibrous band of tissue running along the outside of the thigh becomes irritated, causing pain in the outer knee.

Tendinitis, which is painful irritation or inflammation of the tendons of the knee.

  • Most often, overuse injuries are managed or resolved by resting and elevating the knee, applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy or steroid injections are recommended with some injuries, and surgery may be necessary in certain instances.

Bone Fractures

Knee injuries that result in bone fractures are typically caused by acute trauma or a severe blow directly to the joint. Bone fractures are usually accompanied by considerable pain, moderate to severe swelling, bruising, and an inability to bend the knee or put weight on the affected leg.

— The most common type of knee fracture affects the patella, and the injury is often caused by a fall and landing on the bone.

  • A minor fracture of the kneecap may be treated by immobilizing the joint with a cast for several weeks. If the patella is dislocated, a surgical repair and follow-up physical therapy become necessary, and a longer recovery period can be expected.

— Fractures of your femur or tibia can result from impact during an auto accident, a serious blow to the joint when playing a contact sport, or a fall from an extreme height. These fractures can also occur in elderly individuals with thin bones or degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis. The fractured bone(s) may be dislocated, or even break through the skin. In many cases, these traumatic knee injuries damage nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons as well.

knee fracture

  • Once the extent of the damage is determined, surgery is usual, and it may involve the placement of screws, wires, plates or rods to repair shattered bones and stabilize the knee. Physical therapy is often necessary to restore function, and depending on the severity of the injury, recovery can take weeks or months.

Runner’s Knee

Almost without exception, every athlete who regularly uses their legs to any extent will eventually be plagued with a problem in one of their joints. This goes for those of world-class caliber like Shaquille O’Neil as well as for the modest weekend runner. Foremost among these problems is the dreaded “runner’s knee” one of the most common repetitive strain injuries evident in athletes. Here’s what you need to know about this debilitating and potentially quite serious condition:

Typical Causes

Running injury, knee painOften referred to as patellofemoral pain or iliotibial band syndrome – depending on exactly where the pain is localized – runner’s knee is a broadly defined condition that can be caused by any number of strain-producing activities. Chief among these issues are:

  • Overuse – Repeated bending of the knee while running, working out or otherwise engaging in exercise will often irritate the nerves of the kneecap for no apparent reason.
  • Overstretching – While a cherished tradition of the athletic community, stretching is not always as beneficial as thought. In particular, abusing tendons – the tissues that connect the muscles to the bones – by overstretching can result in an inflammation in the knee.
  • Trauma – A severe fall or blow can damage otherwise healthy tissue leading to recurrent, idiopathic pain throughout the joint.
  • Misalignment – The luck of the genetic draw sometimes leaves an individual with one or several bones out of their optimal position. These misaligned bones cause pressure and other physical stress to be distributed unevenly throughout the knee joint. Over time, damage is caused and pain results.
  • Foot Issues – Similarly, pronation or more familiarly, “flat feet,” is another congenital condition that places undue stress on the knee joint. As the extremity impacts the ground, the “fallen arches” of the foot collapse more than is necessary thus overly stretching the muscles and the tendons in the joint.

Common Symptoms

As you can imagine, the symptoms of runner’s knee involve pain in and around the joint where the thighbone and the kneecap meet. More specifically, the patient will describe a general joint pain when simply bending the knee – whether they are simply walking, attempting to sit or kneel or are engaged in squatting and other more vigorous types of exercise.

In addition, the pain in the joint is usually more extreme when the victim is walking down a flight of stairs or even a small downhill incline. Finally, victims of runner’s knee commonly experience swelling in the affected joint – by the way, it is not at all uncommon for only one joint to be affected – as well as a popping noise or grinding sensation when the joint is in use.

Professional Diagnosis

Radiologist kneeStandard techniques for diagnosing runner’s knee include a thorough physical exam of the area including manual manipulation of the joint. As mentioned above, runner’s knee falls into two distinct categories. Patellofemoral syndrome is indicated by pain specifically in the kneecap while iliotibial band syndrome causes distress along the side of the joint. The former is more painful ascending stairs and inclines while the latter hurts far more when moving downhill.

Once the doctor appraises the general condition of the joint, he will most likely order a battery of tests to better understand the nature of the injury. These additional tests may include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging or computerized axial tomography. These tests in addition to the the history of the patient and their activities will, in most cases, reveal the true extent of the problem.

Prescribed Treatment

There are no real surprises when it comes to the treatment of either type of runner’s knee. The primary treatments are simple and include:

  • Extended Rest – As with any repetitive stress injury, eliminating the actual stress is paramount even to the point of placing no weight on the joint. Athletes and exercise addicts may not want to face the truth but allowing the joint to heal is the best, most effective treatment. It is also recommended to keep the joint elevated when resting.
  • Apply Ice – The swelling of the knee joint, though your body’s way of trying to minimize any damage, produces it owns stresses – including pain! The judicious use of ice is one way to ameliorate this situation. An ice pack applied every four hours for 20-30 minutes is the best course of action.
  • Use Physical Compression – Similarly, elastic bandages can slow the excess flow of blood and other fluids into the affected area and help the healing process. One note of warning, these compresses can get rather comfortable but do not leave them on overnight.Knee pain
  • Consider Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers – There are several name-brand and generic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) available that will help with pain and swelling. Consult your physician for which one is best for you.

Knee Pain Causes

Even though the knee is a fairly small part of the body, it’s frequent use and central, load-bearing position means it is one of the most common sources of pain in the human body. There are many causes of pain, but we’ve listed some of the more common ones below.

 

Knee Pain Cause #1: Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common cause of pain in the knee. There are six different types of arthritis that tend to cause knee pain. They are:

  • knee pain causesGout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Post-traumatic Arthritis
  • Pseudogout
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Septic Arthritis

 

Knee Pain Cause #2: Injury

A common cause of knee pain is injury due to heavy use or mis-use. Physical activities such as sports and work can often cause an injury, either through over-use or through twisting or applying weight on the knee at an unsual ankle. Being overweight also places an unnatural amount of strain on the knee and makes you far more suseptible to knee injuries as a result of physical activity.

Knee Pain Cause #3: Osgood-Schlatter Disease

This disease typically affects the severly overweight and abese teenage boys who are also active. This condition is caused by the tendons that are attached to the shin bone pulling away from the bone during certain movements.

Knee Pain Cause #3: Bursitis

Bursas are fluid-filled structures in your knee that provide cushioning in the joint. Activities such that apply pressure on these structures, such as kneeling on the floor, can sometimes cause a bursa to become irritated causing burstis

Knee Pain Cause #4: Tendinitis

Tendons are wirey tissues that hold muscles to bones. If they become inflamed or torn, it is a condition called tendinitis.

Ligament Injuries

Ligament are a type of tissue that holds the knee together. Humans have ligaments that connect the bones in the knee along the inside and outside edges and two that criss-cross within the knee. These ligaments can quite easily become over-stretched or torn during physical activites. Depending on which ligament gets injured, it can cause varying degress of knee pain and your knee could become shakey.

Knee Pain Cause #5: Dislocation

If your knee cap becomes dislocated, it can cause knee pain. Instead of your knee cap resting in its normal location at the bottom of yur thigh bone, it can slide to side, most often towards the outside of your leg. This type of dislocation most often happens when someone has all of their body weight on their knee and they twist or change irection quickly. Knee injuries are very common and can be quite painful.