Can Radiofrequency Ablation Treat My Nerve Pain?

Can Radiofrequency Ablation Treat My Nerve Pain?

Do you deal with nerve pain in your spine? Have you tried medications and other treatments to no avail? Radiofrequency ablation, which stops targeted nerves from sending pain signals, may be able to help.

In this blog, Kenneth Varley, MD, of Southern Pain Specialists explains what radiofrequency ablation does and how it’s performed.

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation, also known as RFA, is a medical procedure that helps relieve chronic nerve pain in the spine. It does this by heating up part of the problematic nerve with an electric current. When the nerve tissue is heated, this stops the nerve from sending pain signals to your brain.

To perform the procedure, Dr. Varley uses X-ray guidance to insert a thin needle into the area you’re having pain. Then Dr. Varley inserts a tiny electrode through the needle to the problematic nerve. Then Dr. Varley sends an electric current to heat the nerve.

How effective is radiofrequency ablation?

The advantage of radiofrequency ablation is that it provides superior pain relief compared to other procedures, such as injections and nerve blocks, which usually only work for a few days or weeks. The pain relief from RFA usually lasts 6-12 months. In some cases it can last years.

If you suffer from a chronic condition that causes you to have nerve pain, RFA may be able to help. Radiofrequency ablation can relieve pain from a number of conditions, including the following:

  1. Arthritis of the spine
  2. Certain injuries, such as whiplash
  3. Pain from previous spine surgery
  4. Neuropathic pain conditions

Once Dr. Varley performs the procedure, you can expect to feel relief within a few weeks. Results can vary from person to person, so don’t be alarmed if your pain isn’t completely gone within the first week. In some instances, it may take up to three weeks to experience the benefits.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Radiofrequency ablation is performed as a same-day procedure, meaning you’ll be able to go home afterward. However, you’ll need to get an IV before the procedure, and you may get a little sedation. So you’ll need to have someone present to drive you home. 

To prepare for your RFA procedure, you should do the following:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes
  2. Remove your jewelry
  3. Shower the day of your procedure with antibacterial soap
  4. Don’t take aspirin for two weeks prior to your procedure
  5. Don’t eat or drink six hours before your procedure

After Dr. Varley finishes performing your procedure, you should go home and rest that day and the day after. You may experience increased pain for a few days, which is normal as the area heals. Although the pain relief can last a year or more, nerves are able to grow back, which may require you to undergo radiofrequency ablation in the future.