Why Your Client has Elliptical Knee Pain

Why Your Client has Elliptical Knee Pain


I was in the recreation centre and a patron asked me:

“What is better, an elliptical trainer or treadmill?”

Before I could answer the question, I need more information.  I needed to get a better idea which is best for him.

I asked him these questions:

– What is your fitness goal?

– What is your previous fitness experience?

– What is your present fitness level?

– Are there any injuries that may prevent you from reaching your fitness goal?

– What have you done in the past that was successful in reaching your fitness goal?

He let me know that he was trying to get fit, he had exercised frequently in the past but was inactive as of right now. Plus he had an old knee injury and in the past he liked using the elliptical machine.

I told him to give the elliptical a go and see how it feels. If the elliptical trainer starts to bug your knees then switch over to the treadmill.

He asked me, “Why might my knee bother me while using the elliptical trainer?”

This was the answer that I gave him:

3 Reasons Why Your Client has Knee Pain While on the Elliptical Trainer

Hip Width is Not Your Natural Hip Width

The distance between the pedals or hip width is built for the average individual. It is suppose to be okay for someone that is 5 foot or 6 foot. The hip width maybe too narrow or wide depending on the brand, design, style and pedal of the elliptical machine. If the hip width is outside of your normal hip width, this will change the biomechanics of your leg. This will lead to undue stress to your knee, hip and back.

knee_pain_exercisesFixed Foot will Affect the Position of the Knee

If your client fixes their heel on the pedal, it will affect how their knee tracks. If the knee is not tracking properly this will put greater stress on different parts of the knee and this will lead to knee irritation or knee injury. Try to get you client to keep their heel off the pedal and get them to pivot on the ball of their foot until they have a position that makes their knee happy.

Some people should not have their heels off the pedal, make sure you read the next tip to find out why.

Weight Shift onto the Toes Leads to More Quadriceps Activity

When one shifts their weight onto their toes, this creates greater quadriceps or thigh muscle activation. This will creates greater force on the knee cap (patella). This excess stress may lead to knee irritation and pain in some clients. If your client has knee irritation, get them to use the elliptical with their heels down and see if this modification changes how their knees feel.

Those were my thoughts on which is better, elliptical trainer or treadmill plus a few reasons why your client’s knee maybe irritated by being on the elliptical machine.

I wonder if there is any research of the topic. The above is my opinion on things, I wonder what the research says.

I will dig into the journals and get back to you.

Have a great day!

Rick Kaselj, MS

Details on Elliptical Knee Pain Program: