When Can You Walk Up Stairs Normally After Hip Replacement?

Taking Stairs After Hip Replacement —

Stairs are often one of the biggest concerns for my patients after hip replacement surgery.  While this is understandable, the truth is that climbing stairs after hip replacement is not something you should be concerned about.

stairs after hip replacement

So how long after hip replacement can you climb stairs normally?  It depends on your definition of normal.  I would define taking stairs ‘normally’ to be a step over step technique both up and down the stairs.  You can use a cane and railing if needed and still be considered normal.

You will likely walk up stairs normally after hip replacement surgery step over step between 3 and 4 weeks post-op.  You will be able to climb stairs normally once the strength and range of motion of your hip improves.  Have your physical therapist instruct you in the proper use of your railing and cane to assist in taking stairs safely. 

You will likely need an additional week or two to comfortably go down stairs step over step due to the increase in difficulty in letting your body weight down.  Some of my patents do feel comfortable going both up and down stairs normally very quickly.  However, this is something I do not expect in the first 2-3 weeks.

How to Climb Stairs After Hip Replacement

When you come home from the hospital you should already know how to do stairs from the training in hospital physical therapy.  Sometimes you may be in a lot of pain or have lack of sleep causing your mind not to be at 100%. 

A quick review of how to climb stairs after hip replacement is warranted.

To maintain hip precautions and avoid hip dislocation, you should always lead up stairs with your ‘good’ leg and down with the ‘bad’ leg.  In other words, lead up with your non-surgery leg and lead down with your surgery leg.  

A phrase many PTs use to help their patients remember stairs is:  ‘The Good go to Heaven, The Bad go to Hell.’  So, the good (non-surgery leg) goes up first (to heaven) and the bad (surgery leg) goes down first (to hell). 

taking stairs after hip replacement

This initial one step at a time technique should be maintained for the first 2-3 weeks after surgery.  Once you regain strength and stability on your new hip you can begin to attempt more normal stair climbing.

Difficulty Climbing Stairs After Hip Replacement

If you are having difficulty climbing stairs after your hip is replaced don’t be disappointed as you are not alone.  Let’s discuss reasons why you may be having issues with stairs and try to resolve them.

Pain Level – Is your leg pain just too much to to safely do stairs in your home.  Maybe you have 15 stairs and you would rather stay on one level to be safe.  This is ok temporarily however you need to use ice and proper medications to control the pain in order to return to normal home mobility.

Leg Muscle Weakness – Its possible that your hip and thigh muscles just are not strong enough yet to support you on stairs.  That’s ok.  They will get stronger and give you the support you need in the near future.  

Unsafe Stairs Setup – Maybe you don’t have a railing installed on your stairs or have stairs that are in unsafe condition.  In this case I would agree to avoid doing stairs until these are fixed or improved.

Other Physical Ailments – Is your knee extremely arthritic and causing you a ton of pain? Is your other hip just as bad and needs replaced too? 

You might find doing stairs really tough early on since you don’t have a good leg to stand on for support.  Avoid stairs until your new hip gets much stronger.

Final Thoughts on Taking Stairs After Hip Replacement

  • Most People Can Walk Up Stairs Normally 3-4 Weeks After Hip Replacement
  • Using Proper Technique For Stairs Initially After Hip Replacement Is Important To Prevent Dislocation
  • You Can Have Difficulty Climbing Stairs For Reasons Such As Pain, Weakness and Unsafe Stairs Setup
About Jeffrey Roth MPT

Owner and operator of Roth Therapy Services in Pittsburgh, PA focusing on in home rehabilitation physical therapy services.


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