Why Radiofrequency Ablation May Be the Answer to Your Back Pain

Blame it on your own two feet and your upright stance: Back pain in human beings is pervasive. If you haven’t experienced it yet, chances are you will. 

But if you have chronic back pain (i.e., back pain that’s lasted three months or more), you may not find comfort in knowing that you’re far from alone. Taking pain medications, or just suffering through the discomfort and trying to get on with life takes a heavy toll, both physically and emotionally. That’s why Brian Fuller, MD and his team at Mountain Spine & Pain Physicians in Denver offer minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for long-term back pain relief.

Turn down the pain signals

When you’re in chronic pain, your nerves continually send pain signals to your brain that keep you in a state of discomfort. Pain alerts your brain to the fact that something’s gone wrong in your body. In the short term, pain prevents you from further injuring a weakened or traumatized body part, but if it goes on for too long, pain becomes its own kind of trauma.

Dr. Fuller uses RFA to dull or turn off the pain signals so that you feel comfortable again. He may recommend RFA if your pain hasn’t responded to other types of treatments — including physical therapy to strengthen injured tissues — or pain medications. You might also consider RFA if you’re not comfortable with taking painkillers long term.

A simple procedure, done while you’re awake

You can’t have RFA if you have a bleeding disorder or an active infection. However, most healthy adults with back pain can benefit from this simple procedure. 

If you’re a candidate, Dr. Fuller performs the RFA in the comfort and privacy of the Mountain Spine & Pain Physicians office. To keep you comfortable, he may give you a mild sedative and place an IV in your arm. He administers a local anesthetic through the IV tube so that you stay awake and can report on your sensations as he finds the nerves you want to quiet down.

Dr. Fuller uses X-ray or ultrasound guidance to insert a needle into the area where you’re experiencing the most pain. He then inserts a microelectrode through the needle.

He asks you to tell him when you feel a tingling sensation so that he can target the right nerve. Once the electrode’s in the optimal position, he sends radiofrequency (RF) signals through the electrode to heat up the nerve tissue. The heat destroys the fibers on the nerve or nerves that were causing your pain.

A short recovery period

Even though you weren’t asleep for your procedure, you should still have someone drive you home because you’ll be groggy from the sedative. You shouldn’t engage in any strenuous activities, household chores, or try to work for the first 24 hours. You can shower and eat normally, but don’t take a bath or immerse yourself in water.

Within a day or two, or even directly after your procedure, you should notice that your pain is reduced. Most patients get relief from RFA for 6-12 months, but sometimes the relief lasts for years.

Contact us by phone or online booking form to find out if radiofrequency ablation can resolve your back pain.

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