Knee Pain on Elliptical: Causes and Solutions

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January 26, 2023
A man feeling knee pain after using an elliptical machine

Do you feel an uncomfortable jolt in your knees when using an elliptical? Are you wondering if you’re doing something wrong or if you could do something to improve it?

You’re not alone – knee pain sufferers across the globe ask this very question in hopes of mitigating their elliptical woes. Let’s look at some of the common causes of this issue, as well as potential solutions for knee pain on elliptical machines.

What Causes Knee Pain When Using an Elliptical?

People avoiding knee pain on elliptical by working out properly

Although ellipticals are largely considered to be low-impact cardio workouts, they can still cause some discomfort in the knees. This exercise equipment has a few common triggers that seem to be the root of most joint issues.

Bad Posture

Not maintaining proper posture when running on an elliptical machine can put unnecessary strain and pressure on one leg compared to the other when performing the base motion of the machine. This can lead to knee pain in the long run, as one side of your body is absorbing more of the shock than the other.

If you’re unsure if you are exercising with proper form, ask an exercise specialist or trainer for advice. Most gyms even offer posture classes that can help you understand the basics of proper form.

Impact on Joints

Overworking the joints over a long period of time can also lead to knee pain on elliptical machines. Some people make the rookie mistake of thinking they can get a more impactful exercise if they crank up the resistance, but this can be counterproductive in certain cases. If you’re pushing yourself too hard and not giving your body enough recovery time, you might be damaging your joints without even realizing it.

The opposite scenario is also true – not pushing yourself enough can lead to soreness as well. Suppose you’re just going through the motions of your exercise plan without any real effort. In that case, you won’t be giving your body the intensity it needs to challenge itself and strengthen the muscles that ultimately protect our joints.

Age and Body Type

A woman with a specific body type that might increase her knee pain on elliptical

As we age, our bone density decreases and our joints become weaker, thus increasing our risk of knee pain on elliptical machines. These aging changes in the bones are an entirely natural and expected consequence as time goes by, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut down on your workout time or exercise intensity.

Body weight is also a contributing factor when it comes to pain as a result of elliptical exercise, as heavier people are more likely to experience joint discomfort compared to those who are lighter. When your body has to support the extra weight, it is inherently going to put more pressure on your knees and other joints.

Past Knee Injuries

The chances of knee injury increase drastically in people who have had past issues and surgeries. This can include anything from an ACL repair to a previous dislocation. In those cases, it’s best to talk with your doctor and make sure you understand the full extent of the injury before attempting elliptical exercise.

Other conditions, such as arthritic knees, tendonitis or even back problems can be exacerbated by the use of an elliptical. All the above-mentioned issues should be thoroughly examined by a doctor, and proper precautions should be taken before attempting any physical activity on these workout machines.

How to Manage Knee Pain From Elliptical Trainer

A man being coached to avoid knee pain on elliptical

Of course, your elliptical workout program doesn’t have to end if you’re experiencing knee pain. There are some steps you can take in order to make your exercise routine more manageable and reduce any discomfort:

Warm Up Properly

There’s a specific logic behind the age-old saying that proper warm-up before a workout session is essential to avoid injury. By increasing your circulation and loosening your muscles, you’re giving your body a better chance of coping with the strain of exercise.

When it comes to knee joint discomfort, performing some light stretches, such as the kneeling quad stretch and standing butler’s stretch, can help prepare you for the workout ahead. You can also do knee lifts and heel digs, as these exercises target the specific area that will be affected by elliptical use.

Cool Down After a Workout

Once you’re done with your workout session, doing a few stretching exercises can help reduce soreness and pain. These are usually quite soothing to your joints and can help you relax your body and mind in the same way that a yoga session would.

You can even perform some light aerobic exercise, like walking or jogging, to help your body ease back into its regular routine. Avoid any artificial motion patterns or exercises, as these can be surprisingly strenuous on your joints.

Wear a Knee Brace

A man with a knee pain after he felt knee pain on elliptical

Even the most modern elliptical motion technology machines can’t replicate the natural movement of running or walking. This means that your knees are going to be taking a lot more strain in comparison, since the adaptive motion and circular motion patterns don’t always match up with your anatomy.

Wearing a motion control brace when you feel knee pain on elliptical can give you extra support and cushioning, making exercising more comfortable. They’re usually made from breathable fabric and can be worn under normal clothing, so you don’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable while working out.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Far

While a high-impact exercise program can be great for your overall fitness and help you burn lots of calories, you can’t exactly start off at full speed. Not only is this form of exercise hard on your knees, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t build up your intensity gradually.

Start off with a lower-impact workout to boost blood flow and prevent your joints from bearing the brunt of an intense workout. Increase the target speed and resistance slowly and only go as hard as your body allows in order to avoid any pain or injuries.

Be Mindful of Your Diet

Believe it or not, the way you eat can actually affect the quality of your elliptical workouts. If you want to have healthier knee cartilage, then it’s important to get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, whole grains and vegetables.

In addition, you should also be mindful of your intake of caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. All of these substances can increase inflammation levels in your body and may interfere with bone health in the long run. To keep your knee joints healthy, you need to ensure that you’re providing your body with the vital nutrients it needs to function correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Knee Pain On Elliptical

How do I stop my knees from hurting on the elliptical?

The best way to achieve an improvement in knee pain during elliptical workouts is to perform warm-up exercises before you begin, as well as focus on your post-workout condition by winding down with some light stretching. Additionally, wearing a motion control brace and reducing the intensity of your workouts can contribute to healthy knee joints.

Should I stop exercising if my knee hurts?

It depends on the severity of your pain. If you experience sharp, intense pain that interferes with your daily activities, then it’s important to stop exercising and seek medical attention. However, if you experience a dull ache or mild discomfort, then these are usually normal signs of exertion and extra stress on your knee joints. In these cases, you should adjust your movements and stop if the pain persists or increases.

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