How to Climb Stairs After Hip Surgery

We understand that you’re anxious to resume your normal activities as soon as possible after having hip surgery at Bruce Carter United Orthopaedic and Spine Center. With modern hip surgery, you can be up in a matter of days instead of weeks.

Physical activity, especially that is performed under the guidance of a physical therapist, is key to your eventual recovery. You will learn how to do everyday tasks using your new hip, including climbing stairs. This is more challenging than walking because of the need to bend your legs and use your artificial hip to propel you forward.

Tips for Getting Up and Down Stairs Like a Pro

It’s important to have support when you climb and descend stairs, especially immediately after surgery. If your home has stairs and doesn’t already have a guardrail or bannister installed, ask someone to complete this task before you have surgery. That way you’re not tempted to walk up or down the stairs unsupported with your new replacement hip. When out in public, avoid walking up staircases without a railing. If you encounter one and you’re with a companion, ask him or her to give you a hand managing the steps. Some other tips for dealing with stairs include:

  • Physical therapists and orthopaedic surgeons have a saying they use with hip replacement patients: Up with the good, down with the bad. That means you should lead with your stronger leg that still has your original hip to walk up the stairway and your weaker leg to walk down it. Although some people have both hips replaced, it’s usually not at the same time so this rule still applies.
  • Check the height of the steps before approaching a step. Most are a standard seven inches apart, but this may not be the case with all steps you need to navigate. If the steps appear a wider distance apart, avoid these if possible to prevent a trip and fall accident. This can happen even with guardrails due to having to lift your leg so high with each step.
  • It’s not uncommon for people to use a cane, walker, or other equipment for walking assistance immediately after hip surgery. When climbing or descending stairs, hold onto the railing with one hand and place the crutch or cane on the opposite side of your repaired hip. If you use a walker for mobility, turn it sideways when you approach the step. Lift your stronger leg onto the first step for going upstairs and start with your weaker leg when coming back down.

Climbing Stairs During Physical Therapy

Learning to climb stairs with an artificial hip is an important part of your physical therapy program after surgery. Your physical therapist will focus on strengthening muscles that work against gravity to help you progress as quickly as possible. These muscles are responsible for keeping you upright while you walk. Exercises that you may complete during physical therapy and at home include:

  • Calf and ankle strengthening
  • Hip strengthening
  • Wall squats
  • Straight leg rising
  • Hip hikers
  • Bridging

Your physical therapist will decide which of these exercises are right for you and explain them in detail if he or she asks you to do them.

We Are Here to Help

Adjusting to life with a new hip can take some time. You’re used to climbing stairs and doing other everyday tasks without thinking much about it. Don’t hesitate to speak to your surgeon or physical therapist if you feel that you’re not progressing as fast as you would like. We can offer new suggestions for climbing steps at home and in the community as well as adjust your physical therapy program if necessary.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.