Walking Down Stairs in Comfort—Swing Your Hips and Save Your Knees

With gravity on your side you’d think it would be easier to walk down stairs than up but that’s not the case. When descending the stairs you may be one of many people who experience intense discomfort including “jittery” knees and pain along the outside of the lower legs. Whether your discomfort is cause by misuse or from an arthritic condition, there are ways to circumvent further pain and/or deterioration.  

Gravity is a force to be reckoned with. So to prevent the force banging into your knees like pile drivers when you step down, you have to stay loose, bend your knees and swing your hips. That way the force is absorbed throuh your whole body and your knees won’t take the hit.   

Women may have an advantage when doing the following movements because they tend to move the pelvis naturally. Men on the other hand, have a much tighter pelvis and culturally are more inhibited with lateral pelvic movement. The good thing is that not too many people are going to be watching what you do with your butt when you’re walking down stairs!

Practice this Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® tip to help you learn to move with gravity and save your knees.

Find a block of wood, a yoga block or some thick books to raise one foot several inches above the floor.

Place the block in from of a wall. Stand with your hands on the wall to steady yourself and put your left foot on the block.

To start, have both feet at the same level (in other words one foot will be lifted off the floor but not standing on the block).

Swing your pelvis to the left, bend your left knee and lower your right foot to the floor. Notice that you make a “C” curve with your back.

Lift and lower your foot in this fashion a few times.

Once you have the idea find some real stairs and do the same movements as you descend alternating the swing each time you bend your knee and lower the other foot to the next step.

Note if you have serious knee problems:  You may need other intervention before this sequence will work for you. If this is the case, consult your local Feldenkrais practitioner or physiotherapist for long-term specialized treatment. In the meantime do one of the following: take the elevator when available or go down the stairs backwards (as if you’re on a ladder) or if only one knee is compromised side step down the stairs. For everyone else the following sequence will be of great benefit.  

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