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Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is one of several treatments the doctors of Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine use to treat chronic, debilitating back pain. We have found that RFA often makes a substantive difference in cases of cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) pain that has failed to respond to more conservative treatments. The reason is that RFA, when properly administered, targets and deadens the particular nerve(s) transmitting pain from the affected facet joints of the spine. If you are suffering the misery of unrelenting back pain, contacting one of our convenient Long Island offices may change your life.

Are you a good candidate for radiofrequency ablation?

RF is generally reserved for patients whose pain is not alleviated by other means. You will be deemed an appropriate candidate for radiofrequency ablation only after other treatments fail to relieve your symptoms. Whether RFA is appropriate in your case is determined by whether you have a positive response to a diagnostic screening. 

The diagnostic test is a nerve block injection, also called a medial branch  block injection, that can temporarily relieve joint or nerve pain. By administering the nerve block injection, we can determine the exact location of the source of your pain and prove that we have done so by doing away with your pain for a short time. Even though the relief from this test is temporary, a positive result indicates that there is a good chance radiofrequency ablation will provide you with ongoing relief.

How Radiofrequency Ablation Works

Using heat to disable the medial branch nerves that normally supply the affected facet joint,

RFA prevents the affected spinal joint from transmitting pain. The procedure is similar to an injection since a needle-like instrument is used. Guided by fluoroscopic imaging, our skilled doctors can be precise in reaching the targeted nerve and to incapacitate it with heat. 

Like all procedures performed by Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine professionals, radiofrequency ablation is outpatient, performed using local, not general, anesthesia. As always, our physiatrists are focused on providing you with pain relief, improved mobility, and the sense of well-being that accompanies them.

Although RFA is not a magical cure for back pain, research studies show a high rate of improvement for patients who have frequently spent years dealing with intractable back pain. According to the National Institutes of Health, over three-quarters of patients treated with radiofrequency ablation experienced significant pain relief within 1 to 3 weeks after treatment. Though the number of patients who experienced long-term relief was lower, it should be noted that the treatment can be readministered generally after 6-18 months of relief..

Types of Back Pain Relieved by Radiofrequency Ablation

No matter what type of back pain plagues you, you are no doubt desperate to get rid of it. Radiofrequency ablation may be your ticket back to the land of comfort and productivity. The procedure has a strong potential to block pain signals resulting from:

  • Whiplash
  • Spinal osteoarthritis
  • Prior spinal surgery with ongoing lumbar or cervical pain

Just imagine how wonderful it would be to be able to live without constant or intermittent pain and to regain your range of motion. Our dedicated, highly capable doctors would like nothing better than to help you reach that goal.

The RFA Procedure Itself

1. Preparing for RFA

The doctor will give you guidance about what to do and not do, but to give you an idea of what is involved:

  • Plan to be driven to and from the procedure
  • Do not eat or drink for at least 6 hours before RFA treatment
  • Do not take aspirin for 10 days before since it slows the clotting process
  • Dress in clothing that can easily be put on and removed
  • Wear no jewelry
  • Shower as directed before the procedure using antibacterial soap

2. Undergoing RFA

You will be administered  local anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain during your RFA treatment.  Nonetheless, you will be able to respond to the doctor during the treatment to help him/her position the tiny electrodes within the aforementioned needles accurately. 

Amazingly, the heat-producing radiofrequency current is only active for 60 to 90 seconds. In that short time, the nerve that has been causing all this trouble is deactivated and stops sending pain signals to your brain. 

3. After Your RFA Treatment

As with all such minimally invasive procedures, you will be monitored by nurses in the recovery room until they are convinced that you are completely stable and not suffering an allergic or adverse reaction of any kind. Once you return home, you should rest for 24 hours.

In the immediate aftermath of the procedure, your body will have to recover from the treatment before you can experience its benefits. You may have some swelling or bruising at the site of needle insertion and you may feel increased pain for a few days. The doctor will recommend ice packs and provide you with additional pain medication as needed.

In a short time, the procedure will be behind you and you will likely feel the benefits of eliminated or greatly diminished pain. The absence of pain will make it much easier for you to go about your daily routine and to exercise. Our physical therapists can then assist you in restoring your muscle strength and range of motion.

Contact Our L.I. Doctors today to Find Out if RFA Will Help Your Back Pain

Discouraged by back pain that seems unstoppable? Now is the time to take steps to improve your quality of life. Get in touch with Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine to see how radiofrequency ablation can provide you with welcome relief.