Radiofrequency Ablation: Is It Effective for Low Back Pain?
Back pain is a common condition that many of us have experienced at one point or another. In fact, according to a report by the WHO Scientific Group, 80% of the global population will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.
Lower back pain may stem from problems in the lumbar facet joints, sacroiliac joint, or intervertebral discs. For some patients, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) may be a solution for chronic low back pain.
Read on to learn more about radiofrequency ablation, how it is used, the risks and benefits, and its effectiveness.
Understanding Radiofrequency Ablation
If you are experiencing recurrent back pain that your normal medication or treatment methods can no longer handle, you may be a candidate for radiofrequency ablation.
What Is Radiofrequency Ablation?
Also called rhizotomy or radiofrequency nerve ablation, this non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure is designed to provide pain relief. Radio waves produce electric currents to ablate or heat up the nerve tissue. This process curbs pain by eliminating the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
When an injury occurs that causes you pain or discomfort, your nerves carry pain signals to the brain. With RFA, the nerves are ablated so they cannot send those signals. If the signals cannot be sent, you do not actually feel the pain.
Radiofrequency ablation can be used to treat the following conditions:
- Chronic low back pain
- Neck pain
- Pain from degenerating joints due to arthritis
Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation for Low Back Pain
Patients who are experiencing low back pain need to have a consultation first to determine a proper treatment plan. During the consultation, your physician will review your medical history and current symptoms. A physical exam may help determine the underlying cause of your pain.
What to Expect
Radiofrequency ablation is an option for qualified patients who experienced pain relief with a diagnostic nerve block.
A diagnostic nerve block involves using a local anesthetic to numb certain nerves that could be carrying a patient’s pain. If the patient experiences relief during the diagnostic nerve block, this lets the physician know that the correct area was treated.
Although RFA is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure, patients should plan to have someone drive them to and from the appointment.
The RFA treatment is performed while the patient is awake and lying on his/her stomach on the treatment table. In some cases, mild sedation via an intravenous iv line may be used. Usually, the patient is awake and able to communicate with the physician.
The physician numbs the treatment site. Using imaging guidance, the RFA needle is injected and guided toward the target nerves. An active electrode is inserted to pass a small amount of electric current to the targeted nerves. A heat lesion is then created using ablation to curb the pain signals.
Risks and Benefits of Treatment
Radiofrequency ablation is considered a low-risk, minimally invasive procedure that reduces pain in the low back.
The entire procedure takes 30-90 minutes in the office. The treatment has a short recovery period. Patients can resume their normal activities 1-3 days after the RFA treatment. As pain relief sets in, most patients see a decreased need for pain medication and an improvement in function.
However, like any treatment, there is a chance of side effects or complications. Immediately following the treatment, patients may experience a burning sensation or numbness at the injection site. As the area heals in the days after the procedure, these feelings will subside. Any discomfort can be managed with ice packs, rest, and topical or oral medication.
Your physician will discuss any potential risks or side effects prior to the procedure. This ensures the benefits outweigh the risks for your overall health and safety.
Does Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation Work?
RFA results vary from patient to patient. The amount of relief and how long it lasts vary depending on the severity of the problem to start. Most patients experience pain relief for six to twelve months. Some are pain-free for a couple of years.
Radiofrequency Ablation in Charlotte with Advanced Sports & Spine
Dr. Ahmad is a board-certified pain physician who utilizes a holistic, integrative approach to sports medicine and pain management. At Advanced Sports & Spine, we are committed to using the latest techniques and technologies including non-surgical, non-opioid treatments.
For qualified candidates with back pain, we provide radiofrequency ablation in Charlotte. Procedures are performed in our state-of-the-art office rather than in a hospital.
Stop living with chronic pain! If you are experiencing low back pain and your pain medication is no longer effective, contact Advanced Sports and Spine. Let us help you find pain relief and get your life back as soon as possible.