Back Pain management is a field experiencing a lot of changes in treatment options, thanks to the advances in technology and improved modes of treatment and research. Back pain has been a big issue, because traditionally it involved the use of narcotics for pain relief. Taking narcotics for the rest of your life isn’t an easy task, which has prompted the need for a better treatment approach.
This is where Radiofrequency Ablation, one of the newest chronic pain management procedures, takes center stage.
What is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
Also called radiofrequency neurotomy or lesioning, RFA is a procedure that makes use of intentional denervation to block pain signals getting transmitted to and processed by your brain. The procedure is minimally invasive and meant for patients who have tried conservative treatment methods without any success.
This procedure is all about applying controlled heat energy to the particular painful nerve in order to reduce the pain signals from this area. The targeted nerves in this case are the ones that carry signals from the painful area of the back.
The treatment is ideal for back pain from a wide variety of causes such as degenerative disc disease, slipped discs and chronic pain arising from other causes.
This procedure is performed in an outpatient setting with very few medications required. Before starting on it, the physician addresses any issue you might have and explains the procedure in detail to allay any fears. It only takes a few hours to complete it successfully.
In an effort to reduce pain during the procedure, the physician uses an anesthetic administered through an intravenous line to numb the area sufficiently. Guided by a fluoroscope, the physician inserts an electrode into your body, guiding it to the targeted nerve. Once the electrode is in position, the physician heats the electrode to create a lesion at the particular nerve end.
It is vital that the nerve positioning is perfect. The physician might have to stimulate the nerve and watch for a reaction to avoid burning nerves that are responsible for motor function.
The controlled heat “burns” the portion of the nerve that is responsible for pain signal transmission. Through this, the nerves can’t conduct any signals to the brain and spinal cord. However, the nerves grow back after 6-18 months, which will require another session to avoid the resurgence of pain.
Recent advancements have introduced the cooling phase, which increases the area that the electrode works on. Before going on with the RFA, the physician usually uses a diagnostic injection to know the exact point that needs treatment.
Types of RFA
There are two types of RFA procedures available to you: continuous and pulsed RFA. Both these methods are ideal for blocking pain signal transmission arising from specific nerves, which results in elimination or reduction of chronic back pain symptoms.
If you are unable to perform day-to-day tasks due to chronic back pain, this procedure can be very beneficial. If successful, you get to return to work and perform your daily tasks without any pain issues.
The results of this procedure can last up to 2 years or more, depending on the rate of nerve regeneration. This makes the procedure more appealing as compared to steroid injections for back pain.
RFA is less invasive as compared to other surgical procedures indicated for chronic back pain. It also provides enough pain relief to help you avoid further invasive surgery.
RFA for treatment of back pain is one of the most innovative tools a physician has in his arsenal. It is minimally invasive and allows you to go back to your daily chores that were previously impossible due to chronic back pain.