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What Is Radio-frequency Ablation and How Can It Help With Pain Management?

June 02, 2022 | Chronic Lower Back Pain, Chronic Neck Pain, Radiofrequency Ablation

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Chronic pain can keep you from enjoying your favorite activities and can significantly limit your quality of life. Whether your chronic pain is brought on by age and lifestyle (like back pain, neck pain, or arthritis) or is a result of a life event (such as an injury), constant pain can disrupt your entire existence and make you miss out on some of your favorite activities.

Middle-aged man talking to a doctor and nurse while holding his painful back

While there is no “cure” for pain, the good news is that there are ways of significantly limiting the amount of pain that you experience. 

Depending on the specific type and location of your pain, one of the most effective ways to treat chronic pain is radio-frequency ablation (RFA). 

RFA (also known as radio-frequency neurotomy) is a revolutionary treatment that combines radio wave technology with ablative technology to address, and hopefully reduce, the pain symptoms you experience. 

Below, you’ll find more information on this treatment as well as what you can expect after your treatment.

What Should I Expect From My Radio-frequency Ablation Treatment?

RFA is a non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment that requires little to no recovery time. Additionally, there is a very low risk of any complications. RFA is performed under local anesthesia to ensure that you do not experience any pain or discomfort during the procedure itself. Depending on the extent of the treatment, RFA can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple hours to complete. 

RFA can be used to treat chronic pain in the back, neck, knees, joints as well as cancer pain and pain in the face caused by trigeminal neuralgia.

Infographic demonstrating the process of radio-frequency ablation for pain relief

How Is Radio-frequency Ablation Performed?

RFA is performed with the aid of a microelectrode that is attached to the end of a hollow needle. During your RFA treatment, your service provider will insert the microelectrode into the trouble area to ensure that the correct area is being treated. 

You will feel a slight tingling sensation when the correct area is targeted. At this point, local anesthesia will be administered. Once the anesthesia has set in, your service provider will send radio waves through the microelectrode. These waves will heat up the tissue to destroy the area of the problematic nerve. 

Once this tissue is destroyed, it will no longer send pain signals to the brain. Essentially, RFA blocks the brain from registering pain in that area to give you continued relief. 

Because the needle is so thin and the microelectrode is so small, there is no risk of damage to the surrounding, healthy tissue.   

Will Radio-frequency Ablation Work for Me?

It is important to note that RFA is not successful for everyone. Because of this, it is important that we check to see that your RFA treatments will likely be successful. This is accomplished at an appointment before your actual radio-frequency ablation treatment. 

At your earlier appointment, your service provider will perform a diagnostic block, which tests your RFA candidacy. For this diagnostic block, a local anesthetic will be injected in the trouble area. Depending on your response to the anesthesia (pain relief or not), your service provider will have a better idea of whether RFA will be effective for you. 

Nothing is more frustrating than undergoing a treatment only for it to not work. That’s why at Advanced Relief Institute, we make sure to keep your well-being at the forefront of everything we do.

What Can I Expect After My Treatment?

There is very little downtime associated with RFA. You may feel some soreness and even slight pain in the injection sites, as well as experience some muscle spasms, but these side effects will dissipate over the next few days. While your pain will not be gone, as nothing can rid you of pain completely, you should hopefully have a significant decrease in the amount of pain you experience. 

One thing to be aware of is that your radio-frequency ablation results are not permanent. The destroyed nerve will regrow after six to 12 months and may cause continued pain. 

Because of this, repeated RFA treatments may be necessary to allow you continued pain relief so that you can experience and enjoy the aspects of life that you’ve been missing out on.

Interested in Learning More?

If chronic pain is impacting your life and you have questions about radio-frequency ablation or any of the other treatments we offer, please get in touch with us today by filling out our online form to schedule a consultation with our specialists.