When back pain just won’t quit, it makes sense to consider a minimally invasive technique known as radiofrequency ablation that zaps painful nerves along the spine to bring relief, according to Endoscopic Spine Surgeon Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, founder and president of Atlantic Spine Center.
Many back pain sufferers don’t know the top spinal conditions that can be treated by radiofrequency ablation, he says, which is increasingly popular in recent years as patients become more educated about the many therapies that can help them get back to their everyday activities with less discomfort. Useful on both the neck and lower back, radiofrequency ablation uses heat to disrupt specific nerves transmitting pain signals to the brain, he explains. The minimally invasive, quick procedure can be done in a doctor’s office and boasts both a high success rate and a rapid recovery.
“It’s important for those beleaguered by chronic back pain to understand the many benefits of this highly effective technique,” explains Dr. Liu, who is fellowship-trained in minimally invasive spine surgery. “It can offer them hope when conservative measures such as medication or physical therapy don’t do the trick.”
Top 5 Spine Problems Radiofrequency Ablation can Help with:
- Spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal that surrounds nerves
- Facet arthritis or Facet Joint Syndrome, the joints that support bending and twisting
- Spinal arthritis and other chronic back pain problems
- Whiplash injury
- Back Injuries
Regardless of the spinal problem being addressed by radiofrequency ablation, each triggers lingering neck or lower back pain that hasn’t gone away after other treatments. But radiofrequency ablation itself shouldn’t prove intimidating, Dr. Liu says, since only mild sedation and local anesthesia are needed to perform it. Once the patient is comfortable, the doctor uses x-ray guidance to help position a radiofrequency ablation probe next to painful spinal nerves, sending an electrical current that heats up tiny areas of nerve tissues to deaden pain signals.
Benefits of Radiofrequency Ablation
One of the most compelling advantages to radiofrequency ablation, Dr. Liu says, is that patients can get right up afterward and walk around. “Little downtime is necessary, which is always hugely appealing to busy people,” he points out.
Other major benefits of radiofrequency ablation include:
- Only a tiny incision in the neck or back is necessary
- Little to no blood loss occurs
- Infection risks are very low
- Patients can go home soon after the procedure
- No discomfort experienced while the heated probe is applied
“Patients are usually so relieved and happy to see how well radiofrequency ablation can solve their long-lasting pain problem,” Dr. Liu says. “Whether their pain was caused by an injury, arthritis or another reason, the vast majority report significant pain relief that can last for years.”
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