Chronic back pain is a problem that affects millions of people. Unfortunately, there is no single treatment that offers every back pain sufferer long-lasting relief. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that back pain can be caused by multiple things. In some cases, radio waves are the solution.
Texas-based Lone Star Pain Medicine will sometimes recommended something known as radiofrequency neurotomy to treat facet joint syndrome. Facet joint syndrome occurs when the facet joints in the back become inflamed due to injury or arthritis. The resulting pain can be anything from mild to debilitating. Radiofrequency neurotomy can offer significant relief to some patients.
Energy from Radio Waves
Radiofrequency neurotomy is a treatment that utilizes energy from radio waves. Doctors use that energy to change the way nerves send pain signals to the brain. Some have described the process as one that destroys nerve cells. However, this is not completely accurate. Radiofrequency neurotomy does not seek to permanently kill nerve cells. Rather, the goal is to cause temporary degeneration to the extent that pain signals are interrupted.
For some patients, this translates into pain relief that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Lone Star pain doctors say some patients have reported relief lasting several years. There is no way to know prior to treatment. Patients respond differently, so the only way to know is to give it a try.
A Minimally Invasive Procedure
One of the big draws of radiofrequency neurotomy is its minimally invasive nature. Where back surgery is very invasive, radiofrequency neurotomy requires only a small incision. A cannula (or tube) is inserted through the incision to allow access to the affected nerve. An electrode is then guided down through the cannula and into the nerve. A small burst of radio wave energy is applied and that’s that.
The electrode and cannula are then removed, and the site of the incision bandaged. Patients are observed for up to 30 minutes before being sent home. The entire process can be completed in about an hour, from start to finish.
Patients may experience significant pain relief with just one nerve site being treated. However, there are cases in which doctors recommend treating multiple nerve sites. Like most medical treatments, how radiofrequency neurotomy is applied can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.
After the Procedure
Patients are likely to experience minimal pain during the procedure itself. Afterward, general soreness at the site of the incision can last for a day or two. Also, a patient’s chronic back pain may not be relieved immediately; it may take a day or two for the full effects of the treatment to kick in.
As with any medical treatment involving incisions and needles, there is always the risk of infection with radiofrequency neurotomy. Patients are encouraged to keep a close eye on the incision site until it heals. In the event infection does occur, prescription medications can deal with it.
Talk to Your Doctor
Though radiofrequency neurotomy is mainly a treatment for facet joint syndrome, it can be utilized to treat other spinal conditions. Some doctors recommend it to treat osteoarthritis. If you are suffering from any type of chronic pain for which you think this procedure might be appropriate, talk to your doctor about it.
Radiofrequency neurotomy is a minimally invasive procedure that relies on radio waves to block pain signals. Many patients experience significant pain relief for months following the procedure. Other patients report pain relief that lasts for years. The treatment is definitely worth looking into if you suffer from chronic back pain.