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What Can Cause Knee Pain When Going Down Stairs But Not Upstairs?

Does your knee hurt while going downstairs but not while going upstairs? Some individuals experience knee pain while going downstairs which can be mild and can occur periodically or the pain could be frequent. There are various causes for this. Read further and know why knee hurts going downstairs but not up.

What Can Cause Knee Pain When Going Down Stairs But Not Upstairs?

What Can Cause Knee Pain When Going Down Stairs But Not Upstairs?

Our knee goes through a lot of stress every day as we indulge in daily activities. There are chances that there might be a problem with your knee cap or patella that might be resulting in your knees hurting while climbing downstairs. Below are some reasons to explore:

Runner’s Knee Or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as Runner’s knee or jumper’s knee is a condition where the affected person feels anterior knee pain. This occurs when irregular movement takes place in the knee cap or patella, thus leading to damage in the soft tissues around the knee joint.

Chondromalacia patella can cause patellofemoral pain and some symptoms include clicking or grinding in the knee while moving the joint or pain and swelling in the knee cap. Even anatomical abnormalities, muscle weakness, or flat feet, could be causing your knees to hurt while going downstairs.

Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects more than 32.5 million individuals in the US alone, and specifically, knee osteoarthritis accounts for above 80% of the cases.(1,2) This could be one of the reasons why your knee hurts going downstairs but not up. Over time, there might be a breakage in the cartilage supporting your knee which can result in the bones moving irregularly without appropriate cushioning. Some symptoms of knee osteoarthritis are grinding in the knee when moving, pain, inflammation, and stiffness after sitting or lying down for long.

Chondromalacia Patella

Another reason why your knee could be hurting when going downstairs could be the chondromalacia patella. In this case, there is the softening or breakdown of the cartilage on the kneecap or patella, and pain might occur when the knee and thigh bone rub each other.(3)

Some common treatments for chondromalacia patella are rest, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Low impact activities, such as swimming can also be helpful. Talk to your specialists and know about the appropriate treatments if the pain does not reduce.

IT Band Syndrome

Iliotibial or IT band is a tendon extending from the pelvis to the top of our shin and also over the side of our knee. IT band syndrome occurs due to repetitive actions like running, hiking, or biking, that involve bending of the knees. When there is an inflammation in the IT band, one might experience severe pain in the knee while climbing downstairs.

Ligament Injury

ACL and MCL are the ligaments that connect to the knee. If there is an injury to these ligaments or if they are sprained or torn, it will cause your knees to hurt when climbing downstairs. It should be noted that knee ligament injuries might be serious and require surgery.(4)

Muscle Strain

One more cause why the knee hurts going downstairs could be the minor muscle injuries like muscle strains. Though they are not serious and heal with time; however, at times when the affected muscles are around the knee, it might result in pain when going downstairs.

General Coping Methods That Could Help When Knee Hurts Going Down Stairs

Though serious conditions causing knee pain require medical attention, some conditions can be treated by following some general coping methods or techniques. Read below.

  • Activate The Gluteus Muscles: You can activate your gluteus muscles by pushing off from the outer heel.
  • Use The Whole Foot: Use the whole foot while walking or climbing the stairs, since stepping on the toes can cause pain in the knees.
  • Take Appropriate Rest: You need to rest whenever you feel you are overstressing your knee. Rest can help a lot.
  • Physical Therapy: Some conditions causing knee pain can be improved with physical therapy. So, talk to a certified physical therapist and know the best suitable therapeutic exercises for your knees.

Take Away:

So, we knew about some of the reasons why your knee might be hurting going downstairs. If you feel the knee pain continues, you should consult your physician and take the best possible treatments to get rid of it.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 14, 2023

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