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Stair Climbing Basics

Learn how to safely go up and down stairs on an injured leg

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Updated December 17, 2004

To avoid further injury or falling during ascending or descending stairs, it is important to learn the safest techniques for negotiating steps. The phrase “up with the good, down with the bad”, or “the good go up to heaven, the bad go down to hell” is often used to help patients recall the appropriate step pattern for stair climbing. If there is no rail for assistance, one must also learn how to appropriately use their assistive device.

To properly ascend stairs, it is “up with the good.” While holding onto the rail with one hand, advance the stronger leg first placing it on the step above where you are standing. After this unaffected leg is appropriately placed on the step, advance the weaker leg up to the same step that the stronger leg is on. If there is no rail to hold on to, the cane is placed on the upper step at the same time or after placement of the weaker leg.

To properly descend stairs, it is “down with the bad.” While holding onto the rail with one hand, advance the weaker leg first placing it on the step below where you are standing. After this affected leg is appropriately placed on the step, advance the stronger leg down to the same step that the weaker leg is on. If there is no rail to hold on to, the cane is placed on the lower step at the same time or after placement of the stronger leg.

Remembering these techniques will help in safely going up or down stairs. This strategy will make stair negotiation easier, therefore preventing further injury or damage to already weak lower extremities.

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