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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Knee Osteoarthritis: Is It Effective in Alleviating the Pain?

A elderly person holding their pained knee

People with knee osteoarthritis can experience debilitating chronic knee pain that interferes with daily activities. Fortunately, they can use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for knee osteoarthritis to help increase physical function and provide relief. It is an effective method of pain management for various conditions. TENS works by triggering the body to block pain signals and produce endorphins. It is an effective tool that can help reduce or replace analgesic consumption.

Many patients with osteoarthritis turn to pain medicines and physical therapy for treatment of their condition. Some even use another form of electrotherapy, interferential currents. Nevertheless, TENS continues to grow in popularity for pain management of knee osteoarthritis. This is because it provides non-invasive and drug-free relief and can produce positive patient outcomes. This article will give an overview of how TENS works, how to use it, and its safety guidelines.

How a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Knee Osteoarthritis Works

Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that occurs when the knee joint cartilage wears away. There can be multiple causes for this, and it can result in mild pain or debilitating pain. Fortunately, people can use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for knee osteoarthritis to alleviate these aches.

TENS therapy primarily works using two methods. The first of which is the Pain Gate Mechanism. This is triggered by using high-frequency stimulation to induce spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This helps patients suffering from acute pain conditions because it takes effect immediately. Furthermore, this has a massage-like therapeutic effect, which reduces muscle tension and increases blood circulation.

The second method is through endorphin production. This results from using low-frequency or motor-level stimulation. These natural painkillers build up and relieve the overall level of aches from osteoarthritic knees. It also helps with other chronic pain conditions, and many value this because its effects last hours after the session. In addition, endorphins help reduce inflammation, which can increase physical function. It also improves moods, which contributes to a better quality of life.

Causes of Knee Osteoarthritis

These are some common causes of osteoarthritic knee pain:

  • Genetics: people can inherit abnormalities that make them more prone to this ailment. Examples of this are bone deformities.
  • Injuries: repetitive movements can cause stress and pressure on the joint. This increases the likelihood of getting osteoarthritis. This covers athletes and individuals with jobs that involve kneeling and squatting.
  • Age: the cartilage may naturally wear away over time, causing the ailment to develop.
  • Weight: overweight individuals are more likely to develop this because of the additional stress.
  • Medical condition: illnesses like diabetes and hemochromatosis are possible causes of this chronic knee pain.

A person removing the film off of an iTENS pad

How to Apply a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Knee Osteoarthritis

Applying Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for knee osteoarthritis is a straightforward process. Nevertheless, studying the instruction manual before using the machine is recommended. This can help with achieving optimal therapeutic effects. Another advice is to clean the area before attaching the pads. This helps adhesion, which can contribute to better treatment of osteoarthritis using TENS.

To start, people must apply the electrode pads on muscle areas near the pain source. Individuals with knee osteoarthritis may place them on the muscles around the involved knee. Once the pads are secure, they may turn on the machine to start the electric nerve stimulation. It is best to start on low settings to prevent electrical shocks and discomfort.

Generally, TENS sessions last between 20 to 30 minutes. This can change depending on the condition and the settings used. Nevertheless, using a session timer is recommended to prevent overuse. The user may turn the machine off once it signals that the prescribed time has elapsed. Lastly, remove the adhesive electrodes.

Pad Placement for Effective Relief

Proper electrode placement is crucial to provide the maximum therapeutic benefits for people with tibiofemoral osteoarthritis. Generally, these are on muscle areas near or on the origin of the pain. In this case, it is the muscles around the involved knee joint. It is crucial to not place them exactly on the bone or joint itself.

Moreover, if the user is applying more than one pad, they must ensure there is at least a one-inch distance. This is to prevent interference between them. Furthermore, avoid placing the adhesive pads on irritated, infected, or broken skin.

A man holding his pained right knee in his hands

Safety Considerations When Using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Knee Osteoarthritis

Users must ensure safety when using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for knee osteoarthritis. One preparatory step before using one is to consult a healthcare professional. They may assess if the overall health condition suits TENS therapy. This is crucial because some ailments react negatively to electrical stimulation and cause adverse outcomes. Examples of these illnesses are cancer, seizures, epilepsy, and heart disease.

It is crucial to stay alert throughout the session when patients with knee osteoarthritis use TENS. This allows them to quickly react if they feel any discomfort. They should avoid sleeping or engaging in daily activities that require concentration. This includes driving and operating heavy machinery.

Practising proper pad placement can also make a difference in the treatment outcome. Users must avoid areas near metal implants. Similarly, they must remove jewellery to prevent possible interference during the session. Lastly, avoid contact with water while using electrotherapy devices. This is because it can cause shocks that can harm the patient and damage the unit.

When to See a Doctor

Users must seek medical attention if they experience worsening pain during or after their session. This is because this can indicate an underlying condition that reacts negatively to the treatment. This will require a diagnosis from a medical professional to determine the cause.

Furthermore, TENS therapy should not cause involuntary muscle contractions. Users who experience this may be using excessively high intensities. This will typically fade after some time passes. However, if this persists, the patient may need to consult a doctor. Lastly, if the user experiences nerve or muscle damage from overusing the unit, they may seek medical help.

Conclusion

Using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for knee osteoarthritis is one method of alleviating pain for the condition. This treatment of knee osteoarthritis works on a sensory level by blocking pain signals and stimulating endorphin production. Beyond relieving pain, it also helps patients increase physical function and mobility by reducing inflammation. It is a good supplementary treatment method to physical therapy and therapeutic exercises. Moreover, it is easy to self-administer for quick and effective relief.

Tibiofemoral osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that can start manifesting as mild pain and grow to become debilitating. It can severely limit the movement of the involved knee and restrict daily activities. Fortunately, using a TENS machine can produce therapeutic effects. Nevertheless, consulting a healthcare professional is crucial before using it. An additional tip to ensure safety is to study the manual before using TENS. Those interested in owning a wireless unit may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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