Reduce Pain Without Drugs: Learn About Radiofrequency Ablation

Whether due to an injury or a degenerative condition, chronic pain can have a significant impact on your daily life. The pain can make it more difficult to complete daily tasks and can keep you from doing the things that you love. Chronic pain can affect everything from your job to your personal relationships.

At Carolinas Center for Advanced Management of Pain, we understand the challenge of living with chronic pain. Patients report limiting activities they used to enjoy, like sports and playing with their children and grandchildren. Injections and nerve blocks can provide temporary relief. However, radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment option that can help manage pain over the long term.

What is radiofrequency ablation?

If you suffer from chronic pain, we have several options to help you get relief. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is one of them. This minimally invasive procedure involves using a small electrical current to heat up a targeted area of nerve tissue. This disrupts the nerve’s ability to send pain signals to your brain, providing effective relief from lasting pain.

Also referred to as lumbar radiofrequency ablation, RFA isn’t new. It has a long history of effective use in disrupting nerve function to stop painful sensations in an affected area. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis using a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable.

Long-term relief

Radiofrequency ablation isn’t permanent. However, treatment can disable nerves for six months to a year on average. Some patients experience relief that lasts up to two years. We often recommend RFA when methods like physical therapy, medication, or injections are ineffective at controlling your pain.

Our pain specialists can discuss RFA with you, answer your questions and concerns, and determine whether it’s right for you. After you and your doctor decide to proceed, the next step is locating the specific nerves that are sending pain signals and causing you chronic pain.

It’s typical for the doctor to use a nerve block to confirm which nerve group is causing problems. This important tool helps to ensure that the right nerve is treated to stop the pain signals and provide relief. This step helps increase the chances of successful radiofrequency ablation.

What happens during the procedure?

You remain comfortable lying down throughout the process. The doctor administers a local anesthetic to the treatment area while you stay awake. If you suffer from anxiety, you may request a low-dose sedative.

During the procedure, your pain specialist uses an electrical current to heat the targeted area using a small needle-like tube. This radiowave energy disrupts the nerves’ ability to send pain signals from the affected area.

What to expect after radiofrequency ablation

In most cases, the procedure takes 30-90 minutes. Afterward, some soreness is normal. It may take a few weeks to feel the effect of this treatment, as it takes time for the nerve to become completely disabled. Most patients experience pain relief a few weeks after the procedure and continue to have relief for a year or more.

Nerves have an amazing ability to regenerate with time. If this happens and the regenerated nerve causes problems with pain, your doctor can repeat the procedure as needed to effectively manage your pain. If the procedure has worked for you, there’s a good chance that repeating it may successfully manage your chronic pain.

Getting relief from chronic pain

Chronic pain isn’t something you have to live with. Radiofrequency ablation may be the right treatment for you that provides relief from back or neck pain. To learn more about the procedure and other treatments that can help provide relief from chronic pain, call to schedule a visit with one of our pain specialists. We have locations in Greenville, Spartanburg, Columbia, and Anderson, South Carolina, as well as Asheville and Gastonia, North Carolina.

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