Perhaps you have been dealing with persistent back pain for years. Your primary care doctor sent you to a pain medicine specialist a while ago. After several visits, the pain doctor has suggested a procedure known as radiofrequency neurotomy. What is it? More importantly, why did the pain doc recommend it?

    First of all, there is no reason to panic. Radiofrequency neurotomy, also referred to as radiofrequency ablation, is a minimally invasive procedure done right in the doctor’s office. It is also a relatively safe procedure with little risk for complications or serious side effects. Pain doctors generally recommend the procedure when traditional pain treatments are ineffective.

    A Treatment for Lower Back Pain

    Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX offers radiofrequency neurotomy as a potential treatment for lower back pain caused by damaged nerves around facet joints. Their clinicians say that the procedure could provide relief when medication and physical therapy have failed. And while lower back pain is one of the more frequently cited conditions for which radiofrequency neurotomy is suggested, it is not the only one.

    Radiofrequency neurotomy has been recommended for:

    • Neck pain related to targeted nerves around facet joints.
    • Knee and shoulder pain associated with a specific nerve.
    • Arthritis pain (particularly knee and hip pain that hasn’t responded to other treatments).

    The main mechanism behind radiofrequency neurotomy is interrupting a nerve’s ability to send pain signals to the brain. As such, the procedure does not address the underlying cause of a person’s pain. It only alleviates the pain itself. This makes it an ideal alternative to pain medications which also do not address root causes. Pain medications only relieve pain.

    How the Procedure Is Conducted

    Radiofrequency neurotomy is a fairly basic procedure in principle. It relies on radio waves and the heat they generate to interrupt pain signals. Generally speaking, the procedure has five steps:

    Needle Placement – The doctor uses fluoroscopy or a CT scan to guide needle placement. One or two thin needles are inserted in close proximity to the targeted nerve.

    Needle Verification – Next, an electrical current is passed through the needles to verify correct placement. Minor pain or tingling are common to this step.

    Anesthesia – Once needle placement has been verified, a local anesthetic numbs the area to minimize discomfort.

    Application – Following anesthesia, the targeted nerve is treated with radio waves that generate heat. As a result, a small lesion is created on the nerve itself. The lesion interrupts the nerve’s ability to send pain signals to the brain.

    Recovery – Most patients will spend 30 minutes or so resting in the doctor’s office before being cleared to go home. It is not unusual to feel injection site pain for a few days afterward. The pain resolves itself in most cases.

    Patients are usually able to resume normal activities within a day or so. As for how long pain relief lasts, that depends on the patient. Pain relief can last as little as 6 months or as long as a year. According to Lone Star Pain Medicine, following up with treatments as necessary represents a minimally invasive way to gradually reduce pain over time without the need for surgical procedures.

    If you have seen a pain doctor and gotten a recommendation for radiofrequency neurotomy, it is probably because the doctor believes it is one of the best options for helping you find relief. The procedure is worth considering. If nothing else, it’s an option to invasive surgeries and long-term pain medication. If you ultimately decide it’s not right for you, there may be other ways to address your pain.

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