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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Is deep heat treatment effective for knee pain?

Q) Some 35 years ago I suffered from a very stiff neck for which I received what I believe was ‘deep heat’ treatment from a private consultant. The effect of the treatment was an intense sensation of heat, and my neck recovered quickly. Since then I have arthritic pain in various joints which has always responded to warmth and exercise. I now have arthritis in my knee and am unable to walk without pain. I was recently at the Royal Leamington Spa Museum and was intrigued to see an exhibit of apparatus manufactured by Bosch, which was described as ‘providing deep heat treatment’ that was particularly effective for knees. Do you know if this treatment is still available?
Mrs Mary Hargreaves, Dursley, Gloucestershire (Spring 2014)


A) I am familiar with the sort of apparatus you describe but don’t think you can get that sort of treatment as a routine any more. In fact I have just such a machine, bought in an antique shop, which involves electrodes and, when turned on, a lot of electrical buzzing with flashing lights. I haven’t used it on anyone, I hasten to add! Short-wave diathermy, which also gave a sensation of heat, is no longer used as far as I know. Some people believe therapeutic (as opposed to diagnostic) ultrasound can work in a similar way but it is rare to feel tissue warmth with this treatment unless it is the rubbing of the applicator against the skin. Pulsed electromagnetic therapy is still available in some units but, again, a sensation of heat is not usually obtained. The theory with all these treatments (except ultrasound) is that beneficial effects on inflamed and damaged tissue can be induced by surface application of electromagnetic fields, but the scientific basis for this is not well established.


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