Can an elliptical trainer cause knee pain?

Some individuals who use an elliptical trainer might experience or aggravate knee pain. An elliptical trainer is considered as a solution for those who require a low-impact cardiovascular exercise while recovering from knee injuries or as an alternative to cross training without placing added strain on the joint. Among those suffering from cartilage breakdown below the kneecap, the machine is highly beneficial.

Just remember though that the biomechanics of the machine might not be suitable for the knees in all cases. The individual should consult a doctor if using the machine is right for his/her case.

What are the forces involved?

The impact force from an elliptical trainer is evidently lower than the force experienced while walking or running. Nevertheless, the forces on the knee and hip joint are higher when using the elliptical than walking.

Knee pain

The impact force from an elliptical trainer is evidently lower than the force experienced while walking or running.

It simply means that the machine is not suitable for those who want to spare the knees. The muscular strength and overall knee functionality are vital factors to consider if the individual wants to avoid aggravating any injuries during rehabilitation. For those who have muscle imbalance in the thigh or hip, he/she are at high risk for knee pain when using an elliptical trainer.

Overuse injuries

The exact cause of the knee pain might be pushing too hard with a workout. In case the knee pain is above the kneecap, it might indicate an overuse injury called as quadriceps tendinitis in which the tendon that connects the quadriceps to the femur above the patella is swollen. This overuse injury is prevalent among individuals who start a workout routine rapidly without establishing a fitness base and among those who engage in activities that involves a lot of rapid acceleration and deceleration such as HIIT or high intensity interval training using an elliptical trainer.

If there is pain on the exterior of the joint, it might indicate iliotibial band syndrome. This is caused by friction of this band over the knee and hip joints while running or engaging in other repetitive movements. In addition, it is quite common among women who have wider hips.

Patellar tendonitis

If an individual has patellar tendonitis, an elliptical machine can worsen it and the pain can be felt while exercising. Always bear in mind that this condition affects the tendon that connects the shinbone and patella.

The patellar tendon helps the muscles in extending the lower leg such as pushing the elliptical pedals. The initial symptom of the condition is pain that can be sharp during activity. At first, the pain is usually present during or right after a workout. The pain is likely to increase if the exercise is more intense. As the condition progresses, the pain can also manifest before, during and after activity.

Biomechanical issues

The artificial movement of the elliptical machine can disrupt with the natural biomechanics and trigger strain on the knee. In case the base movement is not consistent with the natural joint motion, it can trigger further stress on the joints. The artificial pause in the downward movement of the leg can also cause the movements of the knee and hip joints to go out of sync, resulting to higher stress on the knees.


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