How to Get Up From the Floor: A Simple Guide From Hinge Health Physical Therapists
It’s not always easy to stand up from the floor. If you need help getting up, try following these tips and balance & strength exercises.
Let’s face it: Getting up from the floor can be tricky. Sometimes there’s a reason, like chronic knee pain, recovering from surgery, or balance-related issues that come with age. But sometimes it can be tough for seemingly no reason at all. “In today’s society, we sit a lot, which can contribute to muscle weakness and tightness in your lower body,” says Caitlin Shaw, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health. As a result, a movement that requires a lot of mobility, flexibility, and functional strength — like getting up off the floor — can become more difficult.
If you’ve recently plopped down on the floor and found it tougher to get up than you thought it would be, it’s important to address. A study published in the European Journal of Cardiology found that men aged 50-80 who could most easily get up from the floor were more likely to live longer than those who struggled. Being able to stand up can be a proxy for overall musculoskeletal strength and general health.
If this is something you struggle with, don’t be alarmed. There’s a lot you can do to strengthen the muscles involved in this functional task of getting up off the floor, so you can feel more comfortable and capable. Here’s what Hinge Health physical therapists want you to know and do.
Our Hinge Health Experts
Caitlin Shaw, PT, DPT
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
How to Get Up From the Floor
There’s not one ideal way to get up off the floor, says Dr. Shaw. Everyone is different. You may get up differently depending on whether you have knee or hip pain, what your core strength looks like, or how you’ve always done it. Ultimately, you want to do what works and feels best for you. But if you’re struggling, the following is a simple way to help get yourself up.
If you’re lying down, roll over. If you are getting up from lying on your back, Dr. Shaw recommends you roll over so you’re on your stomach. If you’re sitting, get on all fours. Make sure both hands are directly under your shoulders, then get on both knees and make sure they are directly under your hips. (Note: This assumes you’re able to bear weight through your hands and knees. In some situations, such as after a knee surgery, you’ll need to take a different approach and should talk to your PT or doctor). Then:
Bring your dominant leg forward. This is the leg you feel most comfortable putting weight on. Position this leg so that your foot is planted on the ground and your knee is directly above your ankle (like a split squat position). Then:
Push up. Using your upper body to push up from the floor and/or your dominant knee, you will be able to bring your other leg forward and plant that foot. From there, you can use your legs or another surface (a nearby chair or table), to push up to a fully upright position.
Note: These instructions do not by any means need to be followed to the tee. You can modify any of these steps to do what feels best and works for you.
When Pain Affects Your Ability to Get Up
Here are some modifications to try, especially if you experience pain when standing up.
For tight hips or lower body stiffness: In these instances, “the big issue isn’t getting onto all fours, but getting from all fours into a standing position,” says Dr. Shaw. “You may find it harder to push up with your feet.” If that’s the case, scootch yourself over to the nearest couch or chair so you can raise your arms up to a higher level. “This allows your hip to flex less when you bring your foot forward,” Dr. Shaw explains, which may make standing up easier.
For knee or hip osteoarthritis: If you have knee or hip OA, you may want to use your upper body for more support, notes Dr. Shaw. Instead of getting into an all-fours “table-top” position, try to bear more weight on the leg that isn’t affected by arthritis. Kick the leg with arthritis out to the side and do a tripod with your arms, then put your weight on the non-affected limb. Or, you could scoot back on your butt toward a couch or chair and use your upper body to prop yourself up to sit on that surface.
For balance issues: If you have trouble maintaining your balance, it may help to widen your base of support by placing your hands further apart, says Dr. Shaw. If that still isn’t enough, then place your hands on a table or chair to help you stay steady.
4 Exercises to Help You Stand Up with Ease
These exercises are recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists to improve strength, balance, and flexibility. They specifically target the muscles and movements that are involved in getting up from the floor.
The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.
How to Get Up From a Fall
Sometimes you have to get up from the floor because you experienced a fall. This can happen to anyone for a million reasons, though falls do become more likely with age. Most of the time (four out of five times, in fact) falls don’t cause serious injuries. But not being able to get up from a fall can lead to complications.
That’s why it’s important to know what to do if you do happen to fall. We know this can be scary, but if you fall when no one else is around, it’s okay. Follow these steps and, when in doubt, remember the three Cs: calm, crawl, call.
Stay calm. Take a few deep breaths, and don’t move right away. You need a moment to get your bearings and assess any damage. Ask yourself the following questions:
How hard was the surface you fell on?
What body part broke your fall — for example, your wrist or elbow?
Did you hit any sharp objects, like the edge of a table?
Did you hit your head?
Can you move your arms and legs?
Do you feel any pain? If so, where?
Crawl to a supportive object. As long as you don’t feel dizzy or lightheaded, it’s okay to move.
Do the following:
Roll onto your side and pause for a minute. Moving too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop and make you feel dizzy.
Get on your hands and knees and crawl to a sturdy chair or couch.
If it hurts to crawl because you injured your wrist, do an adapted crawl with just one hand or place your elbows and forearms on the ground.
If you can’t get on your hands and knees without pain, scooch forward on your butt.
Once you reach the furniture, put your hands on the chair and slide one foot forward so that you are in a split kneeling position. One knee will remain on the ground with the other foot pressed firmly into the ground and your knee bent at 90 degrees. From this position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
Call for help (if needed). If you’ve made it safely to the chair and you feel okay, you may not need to call for help. But if you’re hurt, follow the same steps to reach your phone. You can call a friend, neighbor, or relative. But if you’re seriously injured, call 911.
Exercise and Fall Prevention
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of taking a tumble is to stay active, says Dr. Shaw. Any exercise that strengthens your legs, like brisk walking, is great, according to a 2018 analysis from the United States Preventive Services Task Force. It’s also a good idea to include activities that improve your balance. Some good options to consider include:
Tai chi. This practice involves slow, gentle movements and controlled breathing. A 2020 review published in the Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that those who practice it have about a 23% reduced rate of falls.
Dancing. A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that weekly dancing improved balance more than other cardio workouts.
Yoga. This is especially helpful in improving balance for people aged 60 and older, according to a 2016 review published in the journal Age and Ageing.
PT Tip: Do ‘Sit to Stands’ While You Veg Out
Good hip mobility and strength helps you stand up from the floor more easily. While you watch TV or do certain chores (say, folding laundry), try multitasking by doing some sit-to-stand exercises from a nearby chair or couch. This engages your larger, lower body muscle groups and prepares you for more complex movements like getting up from the floor, says Dr. Shaw.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.
See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
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Facts About Falls. (2023, May). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html#:~:text=Many%20falls%20do%20not%20cause,bone%20or%20a%20head%20injury.&text=These%20injuries%20can%20make%20it,%2C%20ankle%2C%20and%20hip%20fractures.
de Brito, L. B. B., Ricardo, D. R., de Araújo, D. S. M. S., Ramos, P. S., Myers, J., & de Araújo, C. G. S. (2012). Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 21(7), 892–898. doi:10.1177/2047487312471759
Guirguis-Blake, J. M., Michael, Y. L., Perdue, L. A., Coppola, E. L., & Beil, T. L. (2018). Interventions to Prevent Falls in Older Adults. JAMA, 319(16), 1705. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.21962
Sherrington, C., Fairhall, N., Kwok, W., Wallbank, G., Tiedemann, A., Michaleff, Z. A., Ng, C. A. C. M., & Bauman, A. (2020). Evidence on physical activity and falls prevention for people aged 65+ years: systematic review to inform the WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17(1). doi:10.1186/s12966-020-01041-3
Rehfeld, K., Müller, P., Aye, N., Schmicker, M., Dordevic, M., Kaufmann, J., Hökelmann, A., & Müller, N. G. (2017). Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00305
Youkhana, S., Dean, C. M., Wolff, M., Sherrington, C., & Tiedemann, A. (2015). Yoga-based exercise improves balance and mobility in people aged 60 and over: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and Ageing, 45(1), 21–29. doi:10.1093/ageing/afv175