Radiofrequency ablation is a pain relief technique that uses an electric current to apply heat to specific nerves, causing damage and prohibiting them from sending pain signals to a certain part of the body. Radiofrequency ablation is used to offer pain relief for the spine (back) and peripheral joints, including the:
Why radiofrequency ablation of spinal and peripheral joints is performed
Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat chronic pain in the neck and lower back that has not responded to conventional pain medication or physical therapy. It’s also used to treat pain in the spine and peripheral joints that may be caused by:
- Injuries such as sprains, strains, and tears
- Wear and tear from overuse
What to expect during a radiofrequency ablation of spinal and peripheral joints procedure
Before a radiofrequency ablation procedure, the patient is given intravenous medication to help him/her relax. Next, the patient is asked to lie down on an X-ray table. X-ray imaging will be used to guide the pain specialist throughout the procedure. The pain specialist inserts a needle into the area where the patient is feeling pain. Then, a tiny electrode is introduced to the area through the needle, where heat is delivered.
Risks associated with radiofrequency ablation of spinal and peripheral joints
Radiofrequency ablation is a low-risk treatment. However, as with any procedure, there is at least a slight risk of complications. Possible risks associated with radiofrequency ablation include:
- Bruising and/or swelling at the injection site
- Bleeding at the injection site
- Tingling sensation or numbness in the legs
Benefits of radiofrequency ablation of spinal and peripheral joints
Radiofrequency ablation provides a pain relief technique for those who have had no success with other pain relief treatments. The nature of the procedure as minimally invasive means that patients can achieve pain relief without the need for surgery and with virtually no recovery time.
How to prepare for radiofrequency ablation of spinal and peripheral joints
Some medications, such as insulin and blood thinners, may need to be adjusted prior to the procedure. For this reason, it’s important to discuss all current medications with the medical care team before scheduling a radiofrequency ablation procedure. Additionally, patients may be asked to not eat or drink for up to six hours before the treatment.
Post radiofrequency ablation of spinal and peripheral joints
Patients can go home the same day of a radiofrequency ablation procedure, but are asked to refrain from driving and participating in rigorous activities for 24 hours.
Pain relief from radiofrequency ablation typically lasts somewhere between six months to one year, but will vary for each person, depending on the intensity of the pain and the location. Some patients may even experience pain relief for several years.
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