Radiofrequency Ablation Treatments –
RFA – What is it?
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) therapy is a procedure used to fight chronic spinal pain. It is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure that has been proven to be very successful in treating people suffering from chronic facet joint pain.
What Conditions Can Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Treat?
RFA is used to treat a few specific conditions that result from osteoarthritis: Facet Joint Pain and Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.
- Facet Joint Pain: Facet joints are the small joints that link the back of the spine. The body has six facet joints in the neck, twelve in the mid-back, and five in the lower back. Because these joints are full of nerves and nerve endings, they are one of the most common sources of chronic back pain. Facet joints can be easily aggravated by trauma from sports injuries or car accidents, or simply by age-related changes in the body.
- Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction: The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is a small, strong joint that is located below the lumbar spine and above the sacrum on both sides of the pelvis. It is a common source of low back pain and/or leg pain as it acts as a shock absorber between the lower extremity and the torso.
Is radiofrequency ablation considered surgery?
To determine if RFA is a viable option for you, first, you will undergo a diagnostic facet block, which tests the facet joints as the source of the pain. During the procedure, the doctor targets the facet joints that are believed to be responsible for your discomfort. If the pain is alleviated after the facet block, the doctor can confirm that those particular facet joints are indeed responsible for the pain, indicating that you would benefit from RFA treatment.
How Does the RFA Treatment Work?
During Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), radio waves generate heat around the nerves that supply the facet joints or media branch nerves. When a person suffers from facet joint pain, these nerves carry pain signals to the spinal cord and, ultimately, to the brain. This restricts motion, causes muscle spasms, and often prevents the body’s natural healing processes from occurring. However, the heat that is generated during radiofrequency ablation disarms these nerves, rendering them unable to transmit pain signals to the brain – thus providing long-lasting relief.
How long is the RFA Procedure?
For many patients, RFA allows a far greater level of activity, while lessening their reliance on pain medication. The procedure usually takes under an hour and is performed under direct visualization using digital fluoroscopy. This enables the treatment to be safe and relatively painless.
How long does radiofrequency nerve ablation last?
Pain relief achieved through RFA is often long-lasting and is sometimes permanent. If the effects of RFA should wear off, it is generally safe for the patient to repeat the procedure. If the pain does return when the nerves regenerate, it is generally not as severe as it was before the ablation.
How long does it take for radiofrequency ablation to start working?
The healing process from RFA can take 2-4 weeks to feel the maximum benefit. As your nerves begin to heal from this procedure, the pain will continue to improve. It is normal to feel uncharacteristically weak during this time as your ablated nerves begin to die.
Does radiofrequency ablation help sciatica?
Sciatica is a specific type of lower back pain that starts with a herniated disk in the lumbar spine. The bones that make up your spine are separated from each other and cushioned by flat and round disks. When these disks wear down, i.e., when these disks herniate, the soft center starts pushing outwards. This puts pressure on the sciatic nerves, which is the longest nerve in the body starting from the lower back and running all the way down to both your feet. With a combination of facet joint injections and RFA, sciatica nerve pain can be controlled.
Is RFA covered by Medicare?
This minimally invasive injection is not a surgery. Recipients may get coverage if deemed medically necessary by your physician.
For more information about Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) procedures at Performance Rehabilitation & Integrated Medicine call our Watchung NJ office at 908-754-1960.