27 May Could Radiofrequency Lesioning Change the Treatment of Chronic Back Pain Forever?
Chronic lower back pain is one of the most common things an American family doctor will see in their clinics, but it is also one of the most frustrating. Chronic lower back pain isn’t like many medical conditions with a quick an easy treatment that will remove the illness – there is no “golden bullet” so to speak. Because of this both doctors and patients can find themselves frustrated by the endless merry go round of ineffectual treatments. This in part has led to the opioid epidemic, whereby millions of Americans became hooked on prescription medications given to them to relieve chronic pain conditions.
Because of this, there is a need to cut down on opioid prescriptions and look to new alternative therapies in the fight against chronic lower back pain. One of these alternatives is a treatment known as radiofrequency ablation. But what is radiofrequency ablation? Is there any evidence that radiofrequency ablation actually works?
What conditions does radiofrequency ablation treat?
There are a whole host of different conditions that radiofrequency ablation is used to treat. Many of these conditions are chronic pain syndromes that come under the umbrella of “chronic back pain”. They include:
- Radiculopathies such as:
- Cervical radiculopathy
- Lumbar radiculopathy
- Peripheral nerve entrapments
- Spinal arthritis
- Complex regional pain syndrome
What is radiofrequency ablation?
To understand radiofrequency ablation we must first understand how pain is transmitted in the pain. The nerves of the spinal cord (ie cell that transmits signals from your skin all the way up to your brain) can often become activated even when a pain signal does not exist. These activated nerves shoot messages up to the brain saying your back is in pain or is damaged when in actuality there is no issue. Radiofrequency ablation works by applying an electrical current and “frying” these nerves – meaning they can no longer shoot up pain signals from your back.
The procedure is done by inserting needles into the back (this sounds scary but is actually not painful – a local anesthetic is usually given to numb the surrounding area). You might notice soreness in the area after the procedure – this is the most common complication.
Is there any evidence radiofrequency ablation works?
There have been a few studies published that show how effective the procedure can be. The most noticeable of these was a study published in the journal “The Spine Journal”.This particular study looked at 300 patients who were all treated at facilities in the United States. They looked at pain questionnaires after completion of the therapy, 3 months after and 2 years after. They noted that patients score significantly lower for back pain even at the two-year mark – meaning that the treatment isn’t just a short term solution but should give relief for many years thereafter.
If you or somebody you know is suffering from back pain – get in contact with a specialist clinic that can offer this new and alternative therapy with excellent results.