The vertebrae in your spine are connected by facet joints. These joints are what provides the ability for you to bend or twist your spine. If an injury or condition affects one or more of the facet joints, it can be painful and limit your range of motion.
In minor cases of facet joint pain, you may find relief from conservative treatments like medication or physical therapy. However, if these methods do not work for you, radiofrequency ablation may help.
What is radiofrequency ablation?
Each of the facet joints in the spine has medial branch nerves that allow the facet joints to communicate with the nervous system. Often, conditions that affect the facet joints put pressure on these nerves, which is frequently the source of facet joint pain.
Spine specialists may use radiofrequency ablation to treat pain stemming from the medial branch nerves. The goal of the procedure is to use radiofrequency to burn a portion of the medial branch nerve endings in the painful facet joint. This can prevent the medial branch nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?
- It’s fast — Most radiofrequency ablation procedures are finished after an hour or two. Many patients are able to return home the same day, although some may need to be kept over a night or two to ensure a healthy healing process.
- It produces long term results — Radiofrequency ablations can reduce pain from facet joints for several months. The exact range of their effectiveness varies from patient to patient.
- It’s minimally invasive — The procedure does not involve any incisions or invasive techniques. This shortens the recovery time and reduces pain during recovery. It also means that you can undergo the procedure under sedation instead of anesthesia, which can be risky to use.
- It can reduce dependency on medication — By reducing pain stemming from the facet joint, you may be able to cut back on or eliminate the need for pain medications. This is beneficial because pain medications can come with undesirable side effects.