Chronic pain felt in the lower back or neck and pain that results from arthritic joints or nerve-related conditions may be amenable to radiofrequency ablation, even if other treatment techniques, such as nerve blocks, have been ineffective. Radiofrequency is an option for most people with relevant conditions, as long as they do not have an infection at the time of treatment and as long as they are not pregnant.
Before radiofrequency ablation is performed, diagnostic techniques (usually nerve blocks) are used to determine the exact location of the pain generator. During radiofrequency ablation, the patient is given local anesthetic and intravenous (IV) medicine to minimize discomfort. X-ray technology is then used to guide a needle into the area causing the pain. A small electrode is then inserted through the needle, through which a radiowave is produced that sends an electric current through the problematic area. The electric current heats up nerve tissue in the designated area, causing enough damage to moderately inhibit any pain signals sent to the brain from that area. The patient does not experience pain while the electric current is affecting the nerve tissue.
Pain relief typically lasts longer than that achieved with injections, prolonging relief anywhere from four to twelve months.
Side effects and outcomes are unique to each patient and will be discussed before any treatment options are prescribed.