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TENS Unit for Arthritis in Knee: How It Works for Effective Relief?

A person holding his knee with both hands due to arthritis pain

Living with acute pain or chronic knee pain can be incredibly challenging. Fortunately, there is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for arthritis in knee. It is a device that uses electrical current as a method of pain relief. This electrical stimulation works in different mechanisms to provide arthritis pain relief. Firstly, it blocks the transmission of pain signals. Secondly, it prompts the release of endorphins. Lastly, TENS can promote blood flow in the painful region.

Arthritic pain is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, causing joint pain and discomfort. Knee arthritis, in particular, can significantly impact the quality of life, making daily activities challenging. Traditional treatment of pain often involves medication, focal knee joint cooling, physical therapy, and therapeutic exercise, which may not be suitable for everyone. Hence, TENS emerges as an effective treatment. This article will present TENS for knee arthritis, including how it works and how to operate it.

What is a TENS Unit for Arthritis in Knee?

A TENS unit for arthritis in knee is a small, battery-operated device that delivers electrical impulses to the body using electrodes placed on the skin. Accordingly, clinical trials, medical professionals, and individuals usually incorporate TENS as a management of pain. Also, TENS provides numerous benefits. It is a non-surgical management tool, drug-free, portable, customisable, and cost-effective.

TENS devices are available in two primary types: wired and wireless. Wired TENS machines require cables to connect the device to the electrodes. On the other hand, wireless TENS units usually operate using rechargeable batteries and eliminate the need for wires. Nevertheless, users can control the treatment characteristics manually or with the use of a smartphone via Bluetooth connectivity.

Furthermore, the key features of TENS machines include adjustable settings. This enables people to modify the pulse amplitude, pulse width, and pulse rate. Additionally, some TENS units offer pre-set programs tailored for different treatment outcomes. This makes it user-friendly and convenient for people with arthritis in the knee.

Causes of Knee Arthritis

  • Knee osteoarthritis or osteoarthritic knee pain: the primary cause of knee discomfort. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the knee joint deteriorates over time.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: it is an autoimmune disorder that can affect the knee joint. The immune system mistakenly targets the synovium, a membrane that lines the joints. This causes inflammation and erosion of the cartilage.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis: this develops after a severe pain or knee injury, metabolic disorders, and infectious arthritis.
  • Repetitive physical activity, muscular pain, or muscle strain: this can contribute to the development of knee arthritis.

A wireless pain relief units from iTENS Australia

How a TENS Unit for Arthritis in Knee Works

The TENS unit for arthritis in knee operates by sending electrical pulses through electrodes placed on the skin. Accordingly, the working mechanism of TENS is grounded in the understanding of pain signalling and the response of the body to electrical stimulation. One key mechanism involves the production and release of endorphins. These are the natural chemicals of the body that act as painkillers.

Another aspect of how TENS works involves the Pain Gate Theory. This suggests that electric nerve stimulation competes with and overrides the transmission of pain signals. By stimulating the sensory nerves, TENS can effectively help close the gate that allows the pain signals to pass through. As a result, it reduces the perception of pain scores and alleviates pain in the knee.

The TENS unit can also influence the blood flow to the knee joint. Hence, the electrical impulses prompt the dilation of blood vessels. This action can promote the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Thus, it reduces inflammation and promotes the healing process. Nevertheless, TENS is beneficial for people who demand pain relief as it enhances the quality of life.

Low and High Frequencies

TENS devices for arthritic pain can use different frequencies of electrical pulses, including low and high frequencies, as a method of pain relief. Low-frequency (LF) TENS typically operates at a frequency of 2 to 10 Hz. This stimulation on pain area has a clinical relevance to prompt the natural painkillers of the body.

Meanwhile, high-frequency (HF) TENS operates at pulse rates ranging above 50 Hz. Hence, HF TENS has relevant outcomes for activating the sensory nerves within the knee. This can also alter the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Nevertheless, both frequencies offer distinct benefits and therapy in patients.

A guide on how to operate the iTENS application

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Arthritis in Knee

To operate a TENS unit for arthritis in knee, individuals should follow a few straightforward steps. Start by connecting the electrodes to the central unit using lead cables or to a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless. Then, before placing the electrodes, ensure that the skin over the knee area is clean and dry. This activity ensures optimal contact of the pads and the delivery of electrical stimulation.

The next step involves placing the electrodes on the skin. It is important to position the pads strategically to target the areas where the discomfort is localised. Nevertheless, it is crucial to follow the proper pad placement. Subsequently, turn on the device. Modify the settings or choose a pre-set program that directly targets acute or chronic pain conditions.

Professionals recommend starting the therapy with the lowest settings and gradually increasing it to a comfortable level. During the TENS treatment, users should pay attention to how their body responds to the electrical stimulation. After the session, the user can turn off the TENS unit and carefully remove the electrodes from the skin.

Safety Precautions

Before undergoing TENS therapy, it is crucial to seek the medical advice of a health professional. This is particularly essential to people with underlying medical conditions or who may need medical attention. Accordingly, it is important to ensure that the skin over the knee area is free from any open wounds, irritation, or rashes. Also, avoid placing the pads directly over the bony regions.

To maintain the integrity and effectiveness of TENS, individuals should avoid exposing the device to water. This precaution helps prevent damage to the TENS and reduces the risk of electrical malfunctions. Do not use TENS units while driving or operating machinery.


People with knee osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis may use a TENS unit for arthritis in knee. It is an electrical device that is available in both wired and wireless functionalities. Accordingly, it works by delivering electrical pulses to the body. This electrical stimulation can further block pain signals, trigger the release of endorphins, or enhance blood flow in the treatment area. Also, the device can deliver low and high frequencies.

Furthermore, operating a TENS device is a straightforward process. The user needs to connect the electrodes to the central unit. Then, the individual will identify the treatment area and position the electrodes. After that, adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program and activate the stimulation. Nevertheless, it is crucial to know the safety precautions to achieve the optimal benefits of TENS therapy. TENS devices are available in numerous stores, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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