Tens Machines For Knee Pain: Causes & Treatment

By Med-Fit UK Content Team  .  Last Updated Wednesday, 22nd May 2024

What Causes Knee Pain? 

There are several conditions or injuries that related to minor and major knee pain. Knee Pain has become the most common musculoskeletal complaint especially with today’s increasingly active society, the number of knee problems and issues are increasing.

The result of this increasingly common injury comes with a wide variety of specific causes but this results in a wide range of treatments available.

The main function of the knee joint is to bend, bear weight from the body and straighten – this all being said, it’s a little more than just a joint as it also rotates and twists. The knee majorly relies on several structures around it to ensure it performs its tasks correctly – these structures include the bones, ligaments, cartilage and tendons.

Types of Knee Pain

Knee pain can be immediate (acute) or long term (chronic) – acute knee pains are usually caused by an acute knee injury or infection, however chronic knee pain is often associated with arthritis or potentially caused by a nasty infection.

Some types are included below:

  • Tendon Rupture – patellar and quadricep tendons may rupture partially or completely, the quadricep tendon injuries typically occurs in recreational athletes older than the ages of 40. Patellar tendon injuries usually occur in younger people who have previous used steroid injections in their knee or have tendonitis.
  • Meniscal Injuries – The meniscal is a wedge-shaped cartilage that provides cushioning between your thigh bone and shine bone. You will usually feel an uncomfortable pop if your meniscal is torn. Injuries to the meniscus are typically traumatic injuries but could be a sign of overuse.
  • Knee Dislocation – This is more of a medical emergency and needs to be looked at by a medical professional immediately. Knee dislocation is when the lower leg becomes completely displaced with relation to the upper leg, the displacement stretches and usually tears not only the ligament but also nerves and arteries. If untreated can cause further implications and may leave the lower leg without blood supply – if circulation is not restored to the leg, amputation may be required and if the nerve injuries are left untreated, it may leave the lower leg without strength or sensation.
  • Dislocated Kneecap – This injury is quite common and usually a result of direct trauma or stretching of the leg forcefully. Dislocated kneecaps are quite common in the obese and quite common when people serve the ball in volleyball and tennis.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis in the knee – RA or usually known as Rheumatoid Arthritis is a connective tissue disease of the body and many of the joints, especially the knee.
  • Osteoarthritis of the Knee OA or usually known as Osteoarthritis is usually caused by a degeneration of the cartilage of the knee – usually in its worst form the menisci or cartilage will be completely reduced to almost nothing and this will result in the femur rubbing on the tibia.
  • Crystalline Arthritis This type of arthritis is usually called Gout or Pseudogout and both are severely painful forms of arthritis caused by sharp crystals. The creation of these crystals occurs as a direct result of defects in the absorption of natural substances such as uric acid, this creates gout whilst calcium pyrophosphate creates pseudogout.
  • Bursitis This type of knee pain is usually a result of infection, trauma or crystal deposits which can cause a painful and often swollen knee. A very common type of bursitis is prepatellar bursitis and is common amongst those who work on their knees. Another type of bursitis is anserine bursitis, this is located about 2 inches below the knee along the medial side of the knee – quite common amongst the overweight and athletes.
  • Infection of the knee – There are many ways organisms infect the knee. Infections of the knee can cause incredibly painful knee swellings. Additionally, people who develop knee infections have been known to complain about having a fever or chills.
  • Jumpers Knee (Tendonitis) Inflammation of the tendon on the upper part of the patella. The reason it was given the name 'jumpers knee' is due to the injury typically being seen in those who play basketball, volleyball or other similar jumping sports. This type of injury causes localised pain that is far worse with activity but usually hurts far more when you jump up than land, this is due to the stress on the tendons of the knee when jumping.
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease – Osgood-Schlatter Disease typically occurs in adolescent athletes who repetitive extend their knee which causes inflammation and injury of the tibial tubercle. This pain can typically worsen when extending the leg with the tibial tubercle being very tender to touch and over time may begin to protrude, this is due to the chronic inflammation stimulating the bone to grow.

How would a Tens Machine help relieve Knee Pain

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines have long been favored for alleviating various types of knee pain, including discomfort from joint issues, arthritis, and other conditions. These devices are user-friendly and offer the flexibility of choosing between wireless tens machine and wired models to suit individual preferences and lifestyles.

TENS machines are equipped with multiple programmes specifically tailored to provide effective pain relief. These programs target both acute and chronic knee pain, delivering targeted electrical impulses that help to soothe and manage discomfort. The versatility of these devices makes them suitable for a wide range of knee pain issues, ensuring that users can find relief regardless of the underlying cause of their pain. 

Ways to Relieve Knee Pain

  1. RICE a very important thing when treating knee pain is to REST, ICE, COMPRESSION and ELEVATION (RICE). This is a good way of treating minor or arthritis flare ups for knee pain. A real go to for several different injuries, especially knee pain.
  2. Expert Advice – If your knee pain is very new to you and depending on the pain, it may be worth getting a doctor to check it out first, as this will give you the best chance of knowing what you’re dealing with to prevent any further damage or poor recovery, as this may lead to further implications down the line.
  3. TENS Machines Tens Machines are fantastic for most of the above causes of knee pain. The most popular machine for those looking to relieve knee pain is our premier tens machine. This TENS unit has several programmes available for a mixture of different knee pains - chronic and acute pains. Tens Machine are used to block pain signals and helps relieve you of your knee pain. Tens machines come typically come with Tens Electrodes, these electrode pads are then placed on or around the knee to help with relieving pain. 
  4. Injections – Your doctor may suggest injecting medication or some form of other substance directly into your joint. These injections can reduce symptoms of arthritis flare ups, naturally lubricates joints – with the aim to improve your mobility and ease pain OR an injection that helps you improve healing.
  5. Acupuncture – Acupuncture has been known to help relieve knee pain caused by osteoarthritis, this is used as an alternative form of medicine.
  6. Bonus point - There is one other option for those looking for knee pain relief, one would be an ice pack for knees. These Ice Packs are fantastic for those looking for cold therapy, and it's very effective for joint pains, injuries, arthritis and many more.

Placement of Tens Electrodes for Knee Pain

To achieve effective pain relief with a TENS machine for knee pain, precise electrode pad placement is crucial. The first step is to identify the exact location of the pain in your knee, as the pads need to be positioned in that specific area for optimal results.

Determine the number of pads needed based on the extent of the pain, typically two tens electrodes will be more than enough. Two tens electrodes are suitable for targeting a smaller, localised area, while four pads are better for covering a wider region of pain. There are other tens electrodes that are larger that can cover larger areas easier, especially around the knee. 

The placement of these pads depends on the source of your knee pain. Typical locations for pad placement include:

  1. The sides of the knee
  2. The back of the knee
  3. The front of the knee

It's incredibly important to avoid placing the pads directly on the kneecap. Instead, position the pads around the kneecap. For two-pad placement, place one pad on each side of the knee. For four-pad placement, surround the knee by positioning pads on both sides, above, and below the knee.

After positioning the electrodes, turn on the TENS machine and follow the correct instructions for 'Knee Pain', as this would usually be listed in your manual. With proper pad placement, this tens therapy can significantly reduce knee pain, enhance your range of motion, and improve flexibility. 

How to avoid Knee Pain in the Future

Exercise – Cardio exercises can really improve the strength in your muscles – this naturally helps support your knees and increase your general flexibility. Do not restrict yourself to just cardio as weight training and stretching also does the same, when focusing on your legs or full body workouts. In relation to cardio, some great choices include cycling, elliptical machines and swimming. There are other ways to improve your balance and stiffness, one of these ways is Tai Chi.

Make sure you buy the right shoes! – Choosing the right shoes and insoles can reduce the stress on your knees, especially those that have knee osteoarthritis – doctors have been known to recommend special insoles for your shoes.