Also known as rhizotomy, radiofrequency ablation is one of the newer non-intrusive, non-surgical medical treatments for pain relief. It is a procedure that utilizes radio waves and heat to neutralize specific nerves and their signals. Through this process, the nerves which are the source of a person’s pain, become incapable of sending signals to the brain, granting the person relief.
The procedure can be carried out with the aid of an x-ray, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide the needle. The procedure targets pain within the facet and sacroiliac joints which contribute to neck and/or lower back pain.
Radiofrequency Ablation for Cervical and Lumbar Pain
Facet joints are small joints that surround adjacent vertebral levels within the spine. They are connected to nerve branches that carry signals to the brain and as such, any pain the area can cause severe pain to a person’s whole body. Sacroiliac joints are the same as facet joints in that they connect to several nerve branches and problems in the area can cause pain throughout the body. However, these joints are located in the lowest part of the spine in the pelvis rather than higher up the spine.
As facet and sacroiliac can cause pain within the area of the neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar) of the spine, radiofrequency ablation is a procedure usually conducted by a doctor who specializes in the treatment of pain. It is often performed when the pain in these areas are chronic and haven’t seen any improvement via other remedies. It is also a viable remedy for pain in the neck which might’ve been the result of whiplash in some previous incident.
While Radiofrequency ablation can be used for treating cervical and lumbar pain, it is not a permanent fix for these problems. The duration of relief from the pain has varied from anywhere between a few weeks to several months amongst patients. It is not uncommon for patients to also seek other treatment methods alongside radiofrequency ablation, such as physiotherapy, exercise therapy, and pharmaceuticals.
What Happens During the Procedure?
The procedure is non-surgical and non-intrusive without the need for general anesthesia. The patient will typically be asked to lie on their stomach or side and may be sedated so that they can relax during the procedure. After numbing the target area, the doctor will then proceed to insert a special radiofrequency needle into the patient with the help of an x-ray for guidance. On the other end of this needle will be a radiofrequency generator which creates radio waves out of the needle to help with confirming the correct nerve causing the pain as well as the treatment. After confirmation, the actual treatment begins which may take one to two hours depending on the targeted area and the number of treatments.
After the procedure, patients can leave the clinic after a short period of monitoring and rest. It is recommended to rest for the rest of the day and only resume regular everyday activities after a few days.
Side Effects of Radiofrequency Ablation
While a safe procedure, there are some minor temporary side effects associated with radiofrequency ablation. These side-effects are:
- Discomfort at the target site
These side effects can be easily treated with at-home remedies or over the counter medication. They also subside on their own after a few hours.
At Progressive Pain and Rehabilitation, our health experts value getting you back to your best, quickly. We provide the best, and latest Regenerative Medicine services aimed to ensure you’re the best version of yourself. Contact us today to schedule your evaluation for any of our quality pain management services.