Knee Pain When Climbing Stairs

Many conditions can cause knee pain when stair climbing. Pain in the front of the knee/knee cap is a common complaint from knee pain suffers when they climb or descend a set of stairs. Stair climbing places additional stress on injured knee tissues such as tendons and cartilage.

View the top 3 causes of Knee Pain Going Up Stairs

Patellar Tendinitis

Patellar tendinitis can cause knee pain when climbing stairs. Patellar tendinitis is a painful condition and can be debilitating. The patellar tendon connects the patella ( knee cap ) with the larger bone of the shin ( tibia ).

A significant amount of stress is placed on the patellar tendon during activities that require repetitive sprinting and jumping movements. Typically, patellar tendinitis is associated with overuse. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain where the patellar tendon joins the kneecap
  • Knee stiffness
  • Knee pain/stiffness when squatting or climbing/descending stairs
  • Cracking sounds in the knee when the knee is bent ( crepitus )


Knee bursitis can cause knee pain when climbing stairs. Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa ( i.e. fluid-filled sac near the knee joint ). A bursa lies between muscles or tendons and bone and aids in reducing friction during movement. Each knee has 11 bursae. Although any of these bursae may become irritated/inflamed, the bursa that lies over the knee cap and the bursa on the inner side of the knee, but below the knee joint, are the most frequently affected.

The following are known causes of knee bursitis:

  • Kneeling for prolonged periods
  • Knee trauma
  • Bacterial infection of the bursae

Common signs and symptoms associated with knee bursitis include an area of the knee that’s warm to the touch or swollen, pain and tenderness when pressure is applied to the affected area and anterior knee pain when stair climbing.

Chondromalacia Patellae

Chondromalacia patellae can cause anterior knee pain when ascending stairs. Chondromalacia patellae is the weakening and degeneration of cartilage on the underside of the kneecap. Often times, the kneecap is not tracking properly when the knee is bent, so the knee cap wears done much like a car engine would if the gears were unaligned. In older individuals, chondromalacia patellae may be caused by osteoarthritis (OA) of the kneecap.

Common signs and symptoms associated with chondromalacia patellae include:

  • Knee pain made worse with stair climbing
  • Knee tenderness and a grinding sensation when the knee is extended or straightened

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.