For many sufferers of chronic pain, the traditional treatment options of over-the-counter and prescription drugs are not sufficient enough to extinguish or significantly reduce their pain. Many chronic pain patients turn to other, alternative, forms of treatment for their condition. Some of these treatment options include counseling, occupational or physical therapy, herbal supplements, and acupuncture. Additionally, many pain specialists are also trying a new technique in their offices known as radiofrequency ablation.
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a medical technique that utilizes radio waves to use heat to inhibit pain-causing nerves (nociceptors) in the body. RFA, a very accurate and precise piece of technology, was originally used to remove cancerous tumors and uteran fibroids, but is now frequently being used to treat neck, back, and head pain (Pain Pathways magazine, Fall 2011 issue, page 39). For back pain specifically, RFA has significantly reduced pain associated with discogenic pain (otherwise known as degenerative disc disease), facet joint pain, and sacriliac pain in many patients. Radiofrequency ablation can also be used in a cooled format, in which the needles used in the procedure are cooled internally, allowing physicians to create a larger target of nociceptor inhibition. This particular type of RFA is supposed to reduce risk and increase the success of the procedure. The RFA procedure ends in a very short recovery time, with most patients being able to resume normal activities the next day. RFA is also relatively safe compared with other similar procedures; complications are rare, and nerve damage is very unlikely.
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