When you consider why someone might need a stairlift it’s easy to assume that their biggest challenge is climbing up the stairs – after all, it always harder to climb up a hill than to coast down the other side, right?
For a lot of stairlift users that would be true, but it really depends on what makes it difficult for someone to get up and down the stairs. If it’s a condition such as angina, which can leave you feeling short of breath, light-headed and in pain through physical exertion, then going up the stairs will present more of a challenge.
But for many people, the real problem with stairs – and the real danger – is not going up, but coming down. The biggest single driver for people buying an Acorn stairlift is arthritis, a common and usually (but not always) age-related condition which causes pain and inflammation in the joints. Particularly impacting the weight-bearing joints, such as hips, knees and ankles, arthritis can make moving around difficult, slow and painful.
For people with arthritis, and similar ‘musculoskeletal’ conditions, climbing up the stairs is certainly a challenge, but it can be achieved reasonably smoothly by moving at a slow and measured pace, using a banister rail to pull yourself up, taking one step at time. In contrast, coming down the stairs is much more likely to ‘jolt’ those painful joints with every step. Having less muscle strength means the body is also less able to absorb or cushion these sudden and painful jolts.
Some people with these mobility problems find it easier and less painful to descend the stairs backwards – using the same technique as going up, but in reverse. Others try to go down sideways, perhaps with their back to the bannister and holding onto it with both hands for better support.
The trouble is that none of these ways is very safe. Descending in the ‘normal’ way, with a jolt at every step, leads people to fear their joints or muscles might ‘give way’ as their weight transfers suddenly to the leg on the lower step.
Coming down backwards means you can’t see what’s behind you and placing your feet is a matter of feeling for each step. Coming down sideways is possibly the worst in terms of putting unusual strain on muscles and joints; the human body simply isn’t designed to move sideways, especially when climbing or descending.
A banister rail offers only limited support when going down, although having a second banister installed on the opposite side might help if your staircase is narrow enough, providing equally balanced two-handed support. Using walking sticks or crutches is also tricky on the stairs, as they are set at the right height to help you walk on a level surface.
Research indicates that falls coming down the stairs are more common than those going up, although it could just be that more ‘descending falls’ are recorded in official statistics. Why? Because the consequences are likely to be more serious, requiring official intervention by health services.
If you trip and fall climbing the stairs, chances are you will fall forwards onto the stairs. You might then slide down on your front and, while certainly unpleasant, the experience will probably be less traumatic, physically if not emotionally. Falls descending the stairs come in two main types; firstly, your feet could slip from under you, especially is your carpet is loose or worn or your footwear unsuitable. If this happens you’re likely to fall backwards onto the stairs and come bumping down on your back or bottom, with little chance of halting your descent.
This is bad enough, but not as bad as tripping or being let down by your body and then falling forwards into thin air. In this situation, the consequences really don’t bear thinking about. In short, however it happens, the one thing you need to avoid is falling on the stairs. Any fall can be serious, but a fall on the stairs can be catastrophic.
If you’re concerned about your own safety (or that of a loved one) on the stairs, whatever the reason, an Acorn Stairlift will eliminate that concern entirely. It enables you to travel smoothly both up and down the stairs, in comfort and safety. No more pain and, crucially, no more danger of falling.
All too often we install a stairlift for someone after they’ve suffered a fall on the stairs. It will help with their recovery, but we’d much rather do it before a fall happens because, as with any health measure, prevention is always better than cure. An Acorn Stairlift can be installed quickly, with no mess or structural alterations, and will probably cost less than you think. Why not book a free, no-obligation home survey to find out how an Acorn Stairlift can eliminate the potential danger of a fall on the stairs?
To get the ball rolling, give us a call for free on 0808 223 4871 or click on the green ‘Get a free quote’ button at the top right of this page.