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Elliptical trainers were first introduced to the fitness market in the 1990’s, and the stationary exercise machines were designed to simulate stair climbing, walking, or jogging while reducing strain on joints by serving as a non-impact alternative to the traditional exercises. While many people have found ellipticals to be great additions to their cardio circuits, they are by no means a one-size-fits-all machine, and occasionally, users are left seeking knee pain relief. How might elliptical trainers actually contribute to knee or osteoarthritis pain?

Unnatural Strides

By design, the elliptical trainer prevents your body from moving exactly as it would if you were walking or running normally, and this can result in movement dysfunction that can leave you seeking knee pain relief.

  • Typically, the legs swing forward when the feet leave the ground when walking or running, and that natural movement travels up the length of the body. On an elliptical, the feet are planted, changing your natural gait.
  • Gait changes result in biomechanical compensation through the joints, which can lead to muscular imbalances and imbalanced joint wear.
  • According to a 2007 study by the Florida Atlantic University Department of Exercise Science, the artificial motion of the elliptical machine may contribute to knee pain because the base motion may be inconsistent with your natural joint motion, straining knees and hips.

Intensity Changes

While the elliptical seems like a good alternative to higher impact activities, relying on it alone for cardio workouts may be costing you calories and muscle building opportunities for knee pain relief.

  • Unlike a treadmill which runs a preset speed and incline, the elliptical does not push you through a program and can ultimately lead to a less intense workout with fewer calories burned. If your aim is weight loss to improve knee pain, you’ll be seeing fewer gains for your efforts.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, a lack of muscular strength is among the leading causes of knee pain, because weak muscles don’t absorb enough of the stress exerted on the joint. Ellipticals may not provide enough of a challenge to build the necessary muscle.

Imbalanced Forces

According to Damien Howell, an orthopedic physical therapist in Richmond, “the elliptical is not ideal for everyone seeking to spare the knees.” Most people are unaware of muscular imbalances in the hips or thighs, but they can put you at higher risk for knee pain on the elliptical.

  • The elliptical machine puts much greater demands across your knee and hip joints, compared with natural walking.
  • Alternatively, the lack of weight bearing pressure on bones and joints during elliptical exercise can cost you the bone density and muscular strength gains you would hope to achieve if you’re trying to prevent osteoporosis or are working around osteoarthritis knee pain.
  • The low-impact design of the machine can actually contribute to overuse injuries in the knee and hip joints, because users can create tendonitis conditions by doing more than they’re physically ready for too quickly. 

Need a Plan for Knee or Osteoarthritis Knee Pain Relief in Naples?

At Synergy Health, we focus on supporting your health and injury recovery with a multi-disciplinary approach to your care. Our team of medical specialists is able to offer everything from chiropractic and physical therapy for your knee or osteoarthritis pain relief, to physical and homeopathic medical services including trigger point injections. Contact us today for a customized treatment plan that will lead to exceptional results!