Knee osteoarthritis symptoms can be debilitating and wreak havoc on your quality of life, severely limiting what you love to do. Injections are an option that many consider.
Usually, the first type of injection that comes to mind is a cortisone or steroid injection. Hands down the worst idea you could come up with for any type of pain, even if it does seem to help for a day or week or even 6 months. The long-term damage done by the cortisone to the soft tissues of the knee is tough to recover from.
The other type of injection that has become more popular over the past decade or so is hyaluronic acid injections in the knee. In general, patients who have had this done seem to do well, or, if they did not see an improvement, there were no downsides (other than a single patient in our office whose knee went septic, but that was a procedural problem and not a problem with the injection itself). I have covered the benefits of this type of therapy in a previous blog post that can be read by clicking here.
So what if something was even better and safer than these hyaluronic acid injection for knee osteoarthritis symptoms and didn’t need a physician to administer the therapy?
According to this particular study, a simple at-home device used for 20 minutes, 3 times per week for 4 weeks, resulted in greater improvements in pain at 6 weeks as well as at 3 months (as measured by the Visual Analogue Scale and the Lequesne index).
A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (or TENS for short) is a simple device that uses a 9-volt battery to send a consistent pulse to an area in order to block pain from making it to the spinal cord and your brain. You can read more about TENS units in a product review blog article by clicking here.
I do find it interesting that the use of a TENS unit had long-lasting effects because TENS units are generally considered to only manage pain and not affect healing or inflammation. Maybe the study participants felt better in the short-term using the TENS unit and, as a result, became more active than the injection group. Since exercise and activity are well-known to help with knee osteoarthritis symptoms, this may actually make sense.
Either way, it would make sense to ask your doctor to prescribe a TENS unit or look into getting one yourself.