Chronic pain may leave you feeling like you have nowhere else to turn, but you still have options for getting your life back. There is a helpful treatment called Radiofrequency Rhizotomy (or Radiofrequency Neurotomy) that may be right for you. This non-surgical therapy is geared toward reducing chronic pain symptoms in your back, neck, and arthritic joints. If you’re experiencing such discomfort, relief is within reach with this minimally invasive procedure.
Read more about radiofrequency rhizotomy and see if you’re an ideal candidate.
What is radiofrequency rhizotomy?
Radiofrequency rhizotomy is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that does not require anesthesia. During the therapy, most patients will feel either nothing or a mildly warm sensation. The procedure length varies based on your pain location and the number of treatments your doctor performs.
How does it work?
The procedure begins with you lying on your stomach on an X-ray table. Your pain specialist will insert an intravenous (IV) line to deliver a relaxation medication to keep you comfortable during the procedure. He or she will inject the numbing medication into your skin—where the procedure site is—before inserting the radiofrequency needles.
The doctor will then use a special X-ray machine to guide the radiofrequency needles along the medial nerves of your back to the precise area so only the targeted nerve tissue will receive treatment. He or she will then numb the targeted nerves to minimize pain during the procedure.
Next, radiofrequency waves will heat the tip of the needle. This will create a heat lesion on the nerve to disrupt the nerve’s ability to send pain signals to your brain. Your pain specialist will repeat this process for any additional nerves that are causing you discomfort.
Why would someone have a radiofrequency rhizotomy?
The goal of this therapy is to reduce or eliminate pain and related symptoms by using heat. Radiofrequency waves ablate (or remove) the nerve causing pain, essentially eliminating the transfer of pain signals to the brain. Your doctor may suggest this procedure if you have pain that:
- Occurs on one or both sides of your lower back
- Spreads to your buttocks and thighs (but not below the knee)
- Feels worse if you twist or lift something
- Feels better when you’re lying down
There are many benefits of this procedure like avoiding surgery, immediate pain relief, little to no recovery time, decreased need for pain medication, improved function, and a quicker return to work and other activities.
What are the side effects?
As with most medical procedures, there are risks and potential complications you should be aware of. Radiofrequency rhizotomy’s side effects may include:
- Temporary numbness
- Temporary pain at the procedure site
- Worsened pain due to muscle spasms in the treated area
- Nerve damage
- Allergies or reaction to medications
Your pain specialist will walk you through these risks and side effects and help you create a plan of action for avoiding or addressing these.
Who is an ideal candidate for radiofrequency rhizotomy?
To help you determine if you’re an ideal candidate, your doctor may refer you to a pain specialist or order more tests. You must have responded well to diagnostic or trial injections to qualify for radiofrequency rhizotomy.
Before you can schedule a procedure, you generally must undergo a series of spinal injections and/or discography tests to verify the exact source of your symptoms. Because of the specific focus, the procedure may not be an effective solution is your symptoms stem from a number of sources.
If a steroid injection confirms the joint is the likely source of pain, then your pain specialist may recommend a diagnostic nerve block test to determine if a radiofrequency rhizotomy would provide more lasting pain relief.
What is the recovery like?
Your pain specialist will return you to the recovery area, where you’ll be under observation for about an hour. Most patients can walk around immediately after the procedure. Patients may experience pain from the procedure up to 14 days, but this is generally due to the residual effects of the nerve “burn” or muscle spasm. Your doctor can help you treat this discomfort with safe amounts of pain medication.
Patients are often back to work 24 to 72 hours after the procedure. You’ll typically experience substantial pain relief within 10 days. However, this relief may be immediate for some patients and take up to three weeks for others. Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor after the procedure to discuss your progress and address any concerns.
Radiofrequency rhizotomy is a quick therapy that will help with your pain and allow you to go back to your daily activities the day after the procedure. No one wants daily aching, and a radiofrequency rhizotomy procedure could be the long-term solution you’ve been looking for.
Lafayette Pain Care is a pain clinic in Indiana. We’re dedicated to helping our patients find lasting relief from chronic and acute pain so they can return to the activities they love. For more information, please visit our website and like us on Facebook.