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TENS or weak opioids, what's best if you suffer from painful knee OA?

W-TENS electrodes with remote.

In a recent study, researchers investigated two different ways of treating pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The one half got to try W-TENS and the other half received weak opioids. They studied both the efficacy and safety in both methods.

Patients with nociceptive pain from their knee OA often receive weak opioids, even though it is well known that the efficacy is moderate. It is also known since many years that opioids, no matter their strength, are bad for elderly. Guidelines from different organizations recommend more or less against the use of weak opioids. OARSI* advise against opioids, both transdermal and tablets, while ESCEO recommend only short term use of weak opioids to ease the knee OA pain.

The study concludes that W-TENS were more efficient, and that the tolerance was higher when treating nociceptive pain. The researchers say that the result from the study should make it possible to consider a nonmedical treatment in persons with nociceptive pain from knee OA.

W-Tens is already used as pain relief in many areas. The pain is relieved by electrical impulses that are emitted from electrodes which are attached to the area you want to treat. Both low frequency and high frequency were used in the study.

This study, "Wearable transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (actiTENS®) is effective and safe for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis pain: a randomized controlled trial versus weak opioids" was published earlier this year (2022). You'll find it here, it will be opened on another webpage ( 


*Osteoarthritis Research Society International
* European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases