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Health Pain Management

Fell Down the Stairs? Should you Visit a Doctor?

fell from stairs visit doctor

It is breathtaking how often accidental falls down the stairs lead to severe injury or even death. The majority of cases are reported among the elderly, where falls in general are the primary cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older. In the USA, it is estimated that 12,000 deaths are due to falling down steps every year.

Unfortunately, the reality is people from all ages fall from stairs every year. Accidents from falling take more lives than deaths on the road, in a fire, or from drowning. Among children 19 and below, about 8,000 visits to the emergency rooms are registered every day.

Most falls at home occur on stairs. If you or a dear one got hurt after falling from stairs, it is important to recognize the severity of the injury. Even more important is to consider when it is best to visit a doctor to do further investigation.

Common injuries after falling from the stairs

These are the most common injuries sustained:

  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Broken leg
  • Broken arm
  • Ankle fractures
  • Femur fracture

Spinal injuries: the most serious case

Recovery after all kind of injuries of the spine is a very long and painstaking process. It needs a huge amount of effort both from the patient, the medical workers and close people. It is important to implement pain management protocols, with different alternatives for pain relief.

In most cases, with damage to the spinal column and spinal cord, quick results are not likely to happen. The time invested in rehabilitation is likely to be long.

On the bright side, the chances of healing spine injuries increase dramatically with an unshakable will to overcome the damage, combined with the most recent techniques for recovery.

Costs are not falling

According to US insurance companies, payments for injuries sustained as a result of falls are firmly in second place in costs, second only to insurance compensation for injuries in road accidents. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015 alone, “the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs”.

In the USA, over the years, one to two million such injuries are recorded. People fall on any stairs in the houses: on the entrance stairs, on the interfloor stairs, on the attic stairs. More falls occur on short flights of stairs – up to 10 steps. People usually take these stairs without proper attention, thinking that the shorter the stairs, the safer it is.

How falls on the stairs happen

Most often they fall on stairs when going down. Falls occur more often in the first steps. With falls, older men and women over the age of 65 are most affected. Therefore, if you are building a house in which you plan to live your whole life, or elderly parents will live with you, pay maximum attention to the design of the stairs or think about building a one-story house.  

Most falls on stairs can be prevented. Prevention of falls begins with the thoughtful design of the steps of stairs and the quality construction of stairs. However, even the most comfortable and beautifully built staircase is not able to prevent falls. In addition to design errors in manufacturing the stairs, falls can be caused by the peculiarities of the situation on the stairs, poor maintenance, careless people, their unsafe behavior and human health factors. 

Why do people fall on the stairs?

The direct causes of falling on the stairs are:

  • slipping a foot on a step
  • treading past a step
  • supporting with a heel or toe on the edge of a step
  • hooking one foot over another
  • tangling feet in clothing,
  • catching shoes that have fallen off a foot (most often slippers)
  • reach for foreign objects left on the stairs

When Should You Visit a Doctor

After an accident on stairs, it is common to have some kind of contusion (bruising). If that’s the case, and it’s the only injury you’ve sustained, you should apply a combination of ice and heat for a few days. If the pain stays for longer than a week, it is better to visit your family doctor.

There are a few cases where YOU SHOULD GO TO THE DOCTOR OR ER RIGHT AWAY:

  • If you have lost consciousness, felt dizzy or confused;
  • A head injury is another reason not to take chances – have it checked;
  • Feeling of lack of strength, balance or numbness in your legs are a bad sign, another sure reason to seek medical attention.

Safety Measures

The best approach is always to prevent accidents and adopt safety measures that make your home and workplace safer. To accomplish that, observe the following preventive measures to decrease the likelihood of falls.

Avoid Dangerous Objects Near Stairs

When cleaning stairs, it is better to use compact cordless vacuum cleaners to avoid tangling your legs in cords. Moreover, make sure that no foreign objects remain on the stairs: clothes, shoes, toys – because it is so easy to trip over them.

Consider Non Slip Floor Coatings

Non slip tile or floor coating can help to reduce the risk of falling and slip. Specifically, flooring with tiles gets dangerous and slippery when wet, which happens often on bathroom and kitchen floors for example. When the floor of the kitchen or bathroom gets moisture, it increases the chances of falling and other accidents. A properly applied non slip coating treatment will help reduce the chances of surprises.

The same logic applies even more to stairs: besides their inherent dangers not usually present on level surfaces, they become extremely dangerous when slippery or wet. Try to avoid situation where that could happen at all costs.

Pay Speccial Attention to Carpets or Damaged Steps

According to the experts at nolo.com, carpets or objects that people could trip on are a common cause of problems that unfortunately end on lawsuits over injuries:

A common hidden stair danger is worn-down carpet or wood that makes the “run” part of a stair — the part your foot lands on — dangerous. Often a slightly worn stair or carpet is more perilous than obviously worn stairs because people are not likely to notice the danger.

Joseph Matthews, Attorney

Such scenario could not only lead to tragedy but also to financial ruin, so always take the necessary precautions.


Although accidents do happen, there are countless situations where proper care could have made them highly unlikely.

When planning your own home, office or shop, take the time to carefully design all the stairs to make them as comfortable and safe as possible. We hope that our recommendations will assist you with this, and also please let us know through the comments your own tips or ideas on the subject.

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Diego Molina

I’m a Clinical Psychologist with a long personal history of dealing with pain: knee tendinitis, TMJ syndrome, and most recently some shoulder pain that I haven’t had the chance to name yet! A long time yoga student, recently I have been researching the mechanisms of pain relief and habits to a healthier and pain-free life.

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