Chiropractor Chandler AZ

Causes & Treatments for Knee Pain From Elliptical Exercise

Knee pain while exercising on an elliptical, and post exercise, can be caused by several types of knee injuries. You could be dealing with a slight sprain of the knee, but in other cases chondromalacia patella and patella femoral syndrome are also common.

Many exercises at the gym involve the knee, so combining elliptical workouts with the treadmill, stairs, squats, etc., can you put at an increased risk for knee pain. The first step is identifying where the pain is coming from and what causes the pain, then creating an action plan.

Causes Of Knee Pain

knee model patella labeled

While the elliptical can cause this pain, certain other exercises can cause the pain to become worse. Intensity matters. Training harder can result in more injuries, if not being done the right way. All of the points below can be a factor in your pain.

  • Increasing time on the elliptical
  • Increasing the resistance
  • Variations in speed, and increasing speed
  • Intensive training, such as working towards a marathon
  • Combining multiple exercises

It is important to know these injuries are most common with any uptick in your training regimen, especially without proper care.

Identifying Your Knee Pain

The knee is complex, so figuring out where your pain is coming from is hard without knowing the anatomy of the joint. To figure out where the pain is coming from, see an enhanced anatomy of the knee joint.

knee model lateral view labeled

The knee is a massive hinge joint which allows over 130° of flexion. A straight leg (extended knee) can be bent (flexed) to where the heel touches the butt. This tremendous range allows us to run, jump, and squat. Your entire body weight and its resistance against gravity strains the joint. When we are running, jumping, or squatting, the forces are greater and shift through the joint depending on the level of flexion.

Your knee also has a slight amount of rotation. This rotation locks and unlocks the knee when standing straight-legged. Many times, people will feel a pop as they extend or flex a knee; some of this feeling is from the rotation.

Your knee is a complex joint. A simple version to that statement is that it has a lot of stuff in it. This stuff includes the bones. The weight-bearing femur sits on top of the tibia and the smaller fibula that is on the outside of the lower leg. Most of the weight is transferred from the femur to the tibia.

knee model posterior labeled

Underneath the patella is another layer of cartilage which faces the front of the femur. The femur is also covered in hyaline cartilage which allows the patella the glide up and down the femur. This area is called the patellar surface. Chondromalacia patella is when the cartilage underneath the kneecap is irritated. Patella femoral syndrome is when the cartilage on the femur is damaged. These are common locations of damage and pain with chronic knee pain.

After knowing the anatomy, we can then figure out whether this injury is starting in the tendons, ligaments, meniscus, cartilage, or even the IT band. One common injury when using the elliptical is pes anserine tendonitis, which is characterized by inner knee pain when bending or straightening. Determining where the pain is coming from will help you develop an action plan.

Creating an Action Plan With Home Treatments

Proper care of your knees can prevent further injury. There are a few methods that are proven to help, but they are not always successful.

  • Rest: decrease your training regimen, even if only slightly
  • Ice: cold temperatures can reduce swelling, inflammation and pain
  • Compression: wearing compressive clothing, or wrapping the knee after exercise can help reduce inflammation
  • Elevation: rest the knee above your heart to decrease blood flow and reduce swelling

Combining these four methods will normally be the most effective method. One other at-home treatment that can be beneficial is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Now, these treatments can sometimes be all that is required in moderate cases, but for most the pain will continue to reoccur until a treatment plan is employed. You can go two ways if home treatments are not solving the problem.

Medical Treatments

MRI and X-rays will not usually be ordered to evaluate mild to moderate muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries. Severe cases may utilize advanced imaging to rule out bone fractures, edema, nerve entrapments, tendon or muscle ruptures. Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) testing may be utilized in cases that also involve muscle, sensory or reflex loss.

NSAIDs will commonly be prescribed for initial stages of knee pain. For more severe cases, prescription drugs may be used, such as muscle relaxers or an oral steroid. Injections are another common treatment for severe cases, whether it is botox, trigger point, steroid, or prp.

A majority of the time these treatments will not fix the problem completely, but they will give relief to the injury for what can be a long time. To get to the root of problem, you must correct your knee with exercises and conservative therapy.

Conservative Treatments

Therapeutic treatments for addressing soft tissue injuries involve massage therapy, manual therapy, trigger point therapy, Graston Technique, or Active Release Technique. These treatments increase blood flow, decrease muscle spasms, enhance flexibility, speed healing, and promote proper tissue repair.

GT therapy

When these treatments are incorporated into a treatment plan, patients heal faster and are less likely to have long-term pain, soft tissue fibrosis, or scar tissue in the injured muscle. These soft tissue treatments are incorporated with therapeutic exercise and flexibility programs.

Low level laser or cold laser therapy is an excellent treatment for decreasing knee pain and swelling. Specific laser frequencies help shut off inflammatory pathways and activate healing and repair cells. Cold laser therapy helps many people with knee pain and enhances their recovery.

Restorative Exercises to Eliminate Knee Pain

Knee pain is normally the result of poor strength and flexibility in important parts surrounding the kneecap. At our Chandler clinic, we work to improve movement and eliminate pain in a variety of methods.

Many therapeutic exercises can help restore proper strength and endurance to the leg muscles. Isometric exercises are often the initial treatment exercises, followed by single plane rubber band exercises for the hip, knee, and ankle: flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, circumduction, inversion, and eversion.

wobble board squatting two feet

We also will employ a variation of dynamic exercises on unstable surfaces.

  • Vibration plates
  • Exercise ball
  • BOSU ball
  • Rubber discs
  • Stability foam

The more unstable the surface, the harder your lower extremities work to provide stabilization. Vibration plates enhance neuromuscular learning throughout the foot, ankle, knee, hip and back.

Our Chandler Chiropractic and Physical Therapy clinic treats a variety of people coming from different backgrounds with muscle, tendon, joint and ligament injuries. We provide treatment for cyclists, runners and triathletes in addition to common to traditional neck and back patients seen in Chiropractic, Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy clinics. We work with all ages and abilities for residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler.


Because the knee is such an incredible, complex joint, helping restore it to normal function often requires multiple types of treatment that address the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.

Everyone wants an easy fix, but just like almost anything great in life it requires hard work and discipline to restore function. Don't buy into the easy way out if you want long term results.

The lower extremity is what gets you through so many tasks throughout life; investing in your body will benefit you in everything from simple tasks at home, to enjoying recreational sports, and yes, even long walks on the beach.