For so many Americans, the common expression “pain in the neck” could really be replaced by “pain in the back”. But most don’t necessarily know that ‘pain’ as we experience it, is a set of impulses sent and processed by our brain. There are ways to use this to our advantage in pain management when it comes to back pain including facet radiofrequency.
On the back of the spine are pairs of small joints – called ‘facet joints’ – that help stabilize the spine while allowing it to move and be flexible. The bad news is that they are often also the source of back pain. They can cause pain in the mid-back, lower back, chest, ribs, abdomen, buttocks, groin, legs, neck, shoulders, and even headaches. Pain culprits in the legs are known as ‘lumbar facet joints’ while headaches are caused by troubled cervical facet joints.
Pain Management for Facet Radiofrequency
The first step in this pain management is often an injection of steroid medication. This approach not only provides the patient with some much-needed pain relief, it helps the medical team pinpoint exactly where the pain originates and confirm that facet joints as the source of pain. For some patients, these injections provide adequate relief but for others this relief is short-lived. In these cases, facet radiofrequency (also known as radiofrequency ablation or radiofrequency neurotomy) may be the best solution.
What is radiofrequency ablation?
In this procedure, a heat lesion is created on the nerves causing pain in an effort to interrupt the pain signals to the brain, thus eliminating the pain from being felt. The medial branch nerves (the ones carrying pain from the facet joints) control small muscles in the neck, mid- and lower-back, but the loss of these nerves from radiofrequency ablation has not proved harmful.
Success Rates of Facet Radiofrequency Treatment
As with many medical procedures, success rates in pain management for facet radiofrequency can vary. However, typically 30-50% of patients who have undergone this procedure for lower-back pain experience significant pain relief for up to two years. Of the remaining percentage of patients, about half experience some pain relief – albeit for a shorter time. Some patients, unfortunately, do not experience any relief from their pain.
When it comes to pain management, we encourage everyone to take their time and ensure they are getting the best in medical care. Your pain, like any other serious ailment, needs to be carefully diagnosed and treated. If you have any concerns regarding back pain or want a second opinion about your medical options, please call Coastal Orthopedics Sports Medicine & Pain Management at (941)792-1404 to arrange a consultation with one of our qualified and caring staff.