Radiofrequency Ablation: A Minimally Invasive Approach to Pain Relief

in Pain Management Treatments / July 27th, 2023

Is unrelieved chronic pain negatively impacting your quality of life? You may be interested to learn about an advanced non-surgical technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA). RFA can provide safe, long-term pain control without surgery or harmful effects associated with other methods of pain management.

What is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure for long-term pain, particularly in the neck, lower back, or arthritic joints. If you’ve had chronic pain that other methods have not effectively relieved, you may want to consider RFA; it’s considered a safe and effective pain management treatment with low risks.

How RFA Works

Radiofrequency ablation uses radio waves, which are delivered through an electrode tip that is precisely positioned to deliver heat to a nerve area. Once the electrode tip is placed near the target tissue, the radiofrequency generator is activated. The current flow generates heat, causing the tissue to heat up quickly. The heat eventually shuts down the affected nerve, eliminating the pain signals that travel to the brain.

The Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure

When you receive RFA you will lie on your abdomen on a special X-ray table. You may be prescribed medication to help you relax, but you will be awake, so you can answer any questions from your pain management specialist. There are several steps involved in the RFA procedure, including:

  1. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the area the treatment will take place.
  2. A thin needle is inserted into the area where you feel pain.
  3. A specific type of X-ray (i.e., fluoroscopy) guides the needle placement.
  4. The correct area is located with a test involving the insertion of a microelectrode, if you feel discomfort, a twitch, or a tingling sensation, the correct area has been detected.
  5. A radiofrequency current is applied, destroying the nerve, and stopping it from transmitting pain signals.

You can usually return home after the treatment and resume your normal activities in a day or two following the procedure.

The Benefits of RFA

There are many benefits of radiofrequency ablation for pain management, including:

  • It’s a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure.
  • The procedure can precisely target specific areas of pain.
  • The need for pain medication can be reduced.
  • There are minimal risks involved.
  • A speedy recovery is expected after the procedure.
  • It offers longer-term pain relief than many other pain management methods.
  • It can help when other types of treatment have been unsuccessful.

Possible Complications of RFA

The side effects of radiofrequency ablation are usually minimal and include local symptoms at the site of treatment, such as:

  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Slight burning sensation over the area that was treated (mimics the feeling of having a sunburn)
  • Mild numbness of skin over the area that was treated
  • Mild headache or dizziness

These symptoms usually resolve themselves on their own within a few days after the procedure.

RFA Treated Conditions

Spine-related, back, neck, or joint pain can make it difficult to get through the day. Our interventional pain management specialists can help provide relief using RFA for many types of pain-related conditions, including:

  • Spinal facet joint pain – facet joint radiofrequency ablation (also known as rhizotomy) can interrupt these pain signals carried from the facet joints to the brain, providing pain relief to your mid or lower back or neck
  • Neuropathic pain – RFA can target specific nerves responsible for abnormal nerve signaling
  • Arthritis – RFA can help alleviate various types of arthritic pain, such as spondylosis (i.e., arthritis of the spine), or osteoarthritis of the knee, without harmful side effects
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain – RFA of the sacroiliac joint provides pain relief by disabling sensory nerve endings near the joint

Take Control of Your Pain

Whether you have pain that just recently started or you’ve been suffering from chronic pain for some time, the interventional pain management specialists at The Spine & Sports Health Center can help. Now is the time to take control of your pain by contacting us to schedule a virtual or in-person consultation in Hoboken, Jersey City, or Bayonne, NJ.

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