The prevalence of back pain is nothing short of eye-opening. Between 50-80% of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. If you find yourself at that point in your life and you’re trying to find the best way to resolve your lower back pain, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is worth learning about.
Your spine not only provides the foundational support for your entire musculoskeletal structure, it also provides passage for your nervous system. It essentially connects your central nervous system to your peripheral nervous system.
You have 31 pairs of spinal nerves and roots that exit your spine at various points from the base of your skull down to your pelvis. When you develop lower back pain, it’s typically because one of the five lumbar pairs, or its branches, has been compressed or irritated, causing it to send pain signals back up to your brain.
With RFA, we target the problematic nerve with RF energy that ablates (cauterizes) the nerve, creating an adhesion that prevents the nerve from sending pain signals to your brain.
This approach to lower back pain works well when there are degenerative changes in your spine that are causing the nerve compression, such as spinal stenosis. Since we can’t turn back the clock on these changes, we need to find ways to manage the pain that they’re causing, which RFA can do very well.
Before we perform the RFA procedure, we typically try a nerve block first to make sure that we’re targeting the correct nerve fibers. With the nerve block, we inject a local anesthetic into the nerves we believe are responsible for your lower back pain. If you experience relief for the next 24 hours, then we know we’ve got the right nerves, and we move on to the RFA procedure.
The RFA procedure is much like getting a nerve block. After making you comfortable on the treatment table, we use fluoroscopy (live X-ray) to guide the needle into place, and then we release the RF energy, which takes just seconds.
After your procedure, you're free to go home, and you should realize the results within a week. As for how long you can expect pain relief, this varies from one patient to the next and depends on how quickly the nerve grows back. The good news is that about 70% of RFA procedures provide relief for a year, or more.
If you’d like to explore whether RFA is a viable option for your lower back pain, we invite you to call our office in Chandler, Arizona, at 480-820-7246 or book an appointment online with Apex Pain Specialists today.