Putting Radiofrequency Energy to Work on Chronic Pain
- Posted on: Dec 15 2018
If you have chronic low-back or neck pain, you know how it can impact your daily life. It can make even the simplest tasks incredibly painful, and can make patients become overly sedentary.
As a pain specialist, Dr. Trujillo has a variety of treatments he can use to address this chronic pain. But if these don’t provide relief, he may opt for radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation is effective for reducing pain. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat the area of the nerve sending the pain signals. It can provide effective pain relief for a period of months or even years in some patients.
Who may need radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is usually used when patients have chronic low-back and neck pain that is caused by nerve compression in the spine. This compression usually occurs as the joints degenerate from the effects of arthritis. When the facet joints at the back of the spine break down, nerve compression is common on the nerves exiting the spinal column in that area.
How is radiofrequency ablation done?
Dr. Trujillo typically uses a combination of IV sedation and local anesthetic for this procedure. Patients usually need to be awake during the procedure to provide feedback to ensure we locate the nerves causing the pain.
After the patient is sedated, Dr. Trujillo uses an x-ray to guide him to the insertion point for the radiofrequency needle. To be sure of the location, a small amount of electrical current is sent into the area. This creates a tingling sensation, or it may cause a muscle twitch in the neck or back. Now the area is locally anesthetized.
Once the RF needle placement is confirmed, Dr. Trujillo delivers a small radiofrequency current into the surrounding tissue. This instantly converts to heat as it enters the body, and the heat creates a lesion on the nerve. This lesion disrupts the pain signals sent from the nerve to the brain. If additional nerves need ablation, Dr. Trujillo repeats the process.
The RFA typically takes between 30 and 90 minutes.
How long does the pain relief last?
The degree and longevity of the pain relief varies from patient to patient. Most patients experience full pain relief within two to three weeks after the RFA procedure. Most patients have pain relief for 6-12 months. The nerves will gradually regenerate, however, and the pain can recur. But in some patients the pain relief can last for years, or it may never return.
If you have chronic back or neck pain, please call Dr. Trujillo at (928) 532-1605, and let’s do something about it.