Why Does My Hip Hurt On Stairs? Expert Insights & Remedies

hip pain when climbing stairs

Every step up a staircase should be a stride towards our destination, not a grimace from pain. Yet, for many, each step is punctuated with an uncomfortable reminder from their hips. This isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a sign from our body, a signal that shouldn’t be ignored. But why do stairs, something so commonplace, become a daily challenge for some? The answer lies in the intricate dance of muscles, tendons, and joints that power our ascent. If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does my hip hurt on stairs?” you’re not alone—and this guide has been curated specially for you. Dive deep with us as we unravel the mysteries behind pain in your hip when climbing stairs and, more importantly, the expert-backed remedies to reclaim your pain-free climb.

What Causes Pain in Hip While Climbing Stairs?

For many, stairs serve as an everyday challenge, not just a mere architectural feature. The simple act of ascending or descending can evoke significant discomfort in the hip area. But what’s behind this? Here, we delve into the common culprits:


Perhaps the most prevalent cause of hip pain during stair climbing. Osteoarthritis, in particular, involves the wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the hip joint. As the cushion diminishes, friction increases, leading to inflammation and pain, especially during activities that exert pressure on the hip, like climbing stairs.


Bursae are small sacs filled with fluid, acting as cushions between bones and soft tissues. Inflammation of the bursae, known as bursitis, can make stair climbing painful. This condition often arises from repetitive movements or prolonged pressure on the hip.


This is an inflammation or irritation of the tendons, which are thick bands attaching muscles to bones. Hip tendonitis can result from overuse or strain, and it can make any movement involving the hip, including stair climbing, painful.

Muscle Strains

Pushing your body too hard, not warming up before exercise, or moving in an awkward manner can lead to muscle strains. When the muscles supporting the hip are strained, they can spasm or become stiff, causing discomfort, especially when climbing.

Hip Labral Tear

The labrum is a ring of cartilage surrounding the hip joint. A tear, often caused by trauma, structural abnormalities, or repetitive motions, can result in sharp pain, especially when moving the hip in certain ways.

While these are some of the common reasons, it’s crucial to remember that every individual is unique. A precise diagnosis is necessary for effective treatment, so if your hip pain persists or is severe, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional.

How Stair Climbing Differs from Flat Surface Walking

At a casual glance, walking and stair climbing might seem like variations of the same activity, but when you delve into the biomechanics, the differences become evident. The hip joint, in particular, experiences distinct stresses in each scenario. Let’s break down why stair climbing can feel vastly different from—and sometimes more painful than—walking on flat surfaces:

  • When you ascend stairs, your hip joint experiences forces up to 3-5 times your body weight, significantly more than the 1-2 times your body weight exerted during normal walking. This increased load can amplify any underlying hip discomfort or issues.
  • Climbing stairs requires a greater range of motion in the hip joint compared to walking on flat ground. As you lift your foot to the next step, the hip flexes more, which can strain tendons and muscles, especially if they’re already inflamed or tight.
  • While walking does engage muscles, it does so differently, and some, like the hip flexors, are used more intensively during stair ascent.
  • The repetitive nature of stair climbing—step after step in a confined space—can exacerbate pain, especially if the cause of discomfort is due to an overuse injury.

Immediate Relief Strategies for Hip Pain

Experiencing hip pain while climbing stairs can be distressing, but thankfully, there are ways to find immediate relief. Here’s a breakdown of strategies to alleviate discomfort and make those steps less daunting:

  1. Use Handrails: Always use the handrail when available. Not only does it offer balance, but it can also help reduce the weight and stress on the affected hip by allowing your arms to share some of the load.
  2. Mind Your Posture: Ensure you’re standing tall and not hunching forward. A straight posture ensures the weight distribution is even, reducing undue pressure on the hip.
  3. Shift Your Weight: If one hip is more painful than the other, try shifting your weight slightly to the less painful side when climbing. While not a long-term solution, it might offer short-term relief.
  4. Pain-Relief Methods:
    • Cold Packs: Applying ice or a cold pack for 15-20 minutes can help reduce inflammation and provide immediate pain relief.
    • Heat Therapy: A warm bath or a heat pad can help to relax and soothe muscle tension around the hip.
    • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen can be beneficial, but always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication.
  5. Take It Slow: There’s no rush. Take one step at a time, and if needed, rest for a moment between steps.
  6. Proper Footwear: Ensure you’re wearing shoes that offer good support. Avoid high heels or shoes with slippery soles that can exacerbate hip pain and increase the risk of falls.
  7. Limit Stair Use: If possible, reduce the number of times you navigate stairs in a day. Consider using an elevator or escalator when available.

By employing these immediate relief strategies, you can mitigate the discomfort and regain confidence in navigating stairs. However, it’s crucial to address the root cause of the pain for a lasting solution.

Long-Term Remedies and Prevention

While immediate strategies offer temporary relief, addressing the root cause of hip pain is essential for long-lasting results. Adopting long-term remedies can not only help in managing the pain but also in preventing its recurrence. Let’s dive into the solutions that can make climbing stairs pain-free in the long run:

Physical Therapy

    • A customized physical therapy regimen can help in strengthening the muscles around the hip, enhancing mobility, and ensuring proper gait.
    • Therapists can provide specialized exercises that target the exact cause of your hip pain, helping in a more effective recovery.

Regular Exercise

    • Strength Training: Incorporating exercises like squats, lunges, and leg presses can help strengthen the hip muscles, providing better support to the joint.
    • Flexibility Workouts: Stretches targeting the hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings can enhance flexibility and reduce stiffness.
    • Low-Impact Aerobic Activities: Swimming, cycling, or using an elliptical machine can keep the hips active without putting too much strain on them.

Diet and Supplements

    • Consuming a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D can support joint health.
    • Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin have shown benefits in supporting joint health. However, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

Alternative Therapies

    • Acupuncture: Some people find relief from hip pain through acupuncture, which involves inserting thin needles at specific points on the body.
    • Massage Therapy: Regular massages can help in relieving muscle tension and improving blood flow to the affected area.

Regular Check-ups

Make it a routine to visit your doctor for regular check-ups. They can monitor the progress of your hip health and make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.


Dealing with hip pain, especially when navigating the seemingly simple task of climbing stairs, can feel frustrating and limiting. However, understanding the cause and adopting proactive strategies can significantly reduce discomfort and improve your quality of life. Remember, you don’t have to endure the pain alone. Expert guidance and targeted therapies can make all the difference. If you’re experiencing Hip pain, physical therapy for hip pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.