Cardio is an excellent way to stay healthy, lose weight, and lower your resting heart rate to live a healthier, longer life. It’s great, until you overdo it.
Unfortunately, you engage your knees a lot on an elliptical. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem, but it can quickly lead to joint pain.
This is everything you need to know about protecting your knees from joint pain moving forward.
What Causes Knee Pain?
There are a few common causes of knee pain, most of which don’t come as a surprise, but it’s important to reiterate them.
- Aging: Simply put, past your early twenties, the body begins to degrade instead of improving. It’s just how we treat our bodies that dictate how fast the degradation occurs, and to what effect. Aging will be a factor whether you’re 25 or 65.
- Injuries: If you have a previous injury, the nerves could be pinched or displaced. There’s a chance that you’ll feel knee pain every time you exercise. You need to either encounter a pain management system and continue with your exercise or talk to your doctor about alternative exercises to prevent further pain or damage.
- Being Overweight: Every pound of weight you gain can put anywhere from 3 to 6 pounds of pressure on your knees. That means if you’re 50 pounds overweight, you could put 150 to 300 pounds of pressure on your knees on top of any health level of weight. The results could be staggering, and being overweight is one of the biggest contributors to knee pain.
- Pre-Existing Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis is something that plagues over one million people in the United States, and while it’s the first to come to mind, there are other conditions that can also cause pain and damage to your knee joints. Pre-existing conditions are aggravating, and often require you to take a different approach to your exercise.
- Poor Posture or Incorrect Form: Running is good, and jogging is good, but if you do it incorrectly, the pressure gets applied differently. You want pressure on your muscles and ligaments to strengthen them, but if you end up putting that strain on your knees, you could do more harm than good.
How Dangerous is Knee Pain?
It depends on the source. Not all knee pain is serious or a cause for concern. That can be hard to hear, but if you have joint damage or a disability that isn’t going just to go away, pain becomes a part of your daily life.
If you’ve ever injured your knee, it’s more likely that you’ll have a near-identical injury in the future if you use that knee.
Knees can lock up, feel shaky or unstable, and swell. If your pain isn’t resolved with swelling, pain medication, heating pads, or additional pain management options, you could have a pinched nerve.
If the pain can be described as sharp or intense, it could be a pinched nerve that requires surgery. Talk with your doctor to see if surgery is an option on the table, though you’ll find that in most cases, it’s rare that surgery is your only option.
What to do to Protect Your Knee on an Elliptical?
You’re going to hop on that elliptical and hit your goals, and that’s great, but let’s make sure you do it in a safe way that doesn’t threaten your joints.
- Use a Brace: Knee braces aren’t anybody’s favorite piece of personal fitness gear, but they’re extremely helpful to make your knees align during exercise. When your knees are aligned and engaged, there’s less room for error or incorrect movements that could lead to a serious injury.
- Hydrate Like It’s Your Job: Your joints need water to stay lubricated. It’s estimated that half of the US population alone is dehydrated, so a 50/50 shot. Hydrate thoroughly on a regular basis, and excessively before workouts to ensure you’re giving your knees joints the optimal condition to function.
- Form Over Everything Else: Your form and posture matter significantly more than most people think. If you’re slouching or standing with a pivot to your hips or knees, you’re not engaging every part of your body. Ellipticals engage a lot of your muscles and joints, making your form even more important.
- Don’t Over Grip: Those handrails are there to help you stay stable, not to act as a literal lifeline. You should hold onto them lightly so that you don’t tense your muscles too much. If your arms are too tight while you’re holding on, it’s likely that you’ll tense up the rest of your body, and movements will be much less fluid.
- Low Resistance Wins the Race: It’s tempting to just boost the intensity right from the get-go, but it’s imperative that you start out with minimal resistance. Don’t overdo it right from the start, or you’ll surely feel it in your joints.
What else can you do to protect your knees? Take proper rest periods, don’t overdo it just because you want to see progress, and be sure to use non-medicated pain management methods as often as needed.
It’s not uncommon to incur an injury after exercise because of the swelling and inflammation in your knees. Use heating pads, take baths with Epsom salts, and treat your joints well, even when they’re not directly being engaged.
Last but not least, just be aware of your body. Listen to any warning signals that it fires off. Pain is a response that shouldn’t be ignored.
Behaviors to Avoid
There are a few behaviors we can fall into while using an elliptical that will cause knee pain and further joint damage. This is what you should avoid.
- Exercising While Exhausted: Feel like you just need to get that exercise in any way? The resolve is admirable, but the solution you seek might not be all too helpful. Your posture, muscle engagement, and any inflammation in the body may be worse when you’re extremely exhausted. You should be engaged, focused, awake and alert so that you can maintain your proper form on an elliptical.
- Doing it Every Day: It’s good to exercise, but if you do it every single day, when will your muscles and joints have time to rest? Your muscles can still burn fat for up to 36 hours after a workout. We’re willing to bet that your muscles and joints aren’t fully recovered in 22-23 hours after a workout. Alternate your elliptical days, or at least take 2 days off in between intense elliptical workouts.
- Forced Movements: You really want to lose weight and you’re motivated, but that leads to unnatural stances and forcing your knees into a position where they hurt. That’s not going to help you in the long run. Don’t force movements to add perceived intensity. You’ll do more damage than good.
Safety for Your Knees
Be sure to focus on your exercise without going too hardcore and hurting your knees or joints. It’s important to exercise, but if it’s a detriment to your health, you have to slow down with your current method or find another way to exercise that isn’t going to cause damage.
If your knees cause more and more pain with each exercise, something is wrong. Consult your doctor, adjust your training regiment accordingly, and look out for yourself.