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Radiofrequency Ablation: 15-minute Procedure for Long-term Relief of Back Pain

Posted on May 23, 2022

Back pain is the single leading cause of disability in the United States and effects the older population disproportionately. Back pain in people over age 60 is often caused by arthritis of the joints in the spine.

As we age, the small joints in the rear of the spine, called facet joints, degenerate or become worn down. Specifically, the cartilage or the soft tissue between the joints becomes thinner. Consequently, the joints rub together, leading to inflammation, stiffness and pain.

When this occurs, patients often complain of having a severe deep ache that worsens with standing, walking, bending or leaning backwards. Twisting, lifting, washing dishes or doing chores can further aggravate the pain.

Aging, obesity, smoking and manual labor are significant risk factors. X-rays and MRI scans will often reveal joint enlargement or abnormalities in the joints that are capable of causing severe pain.

Initially, common treatments may include oral anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen), physical therapy, heat/ice therapy and/or chiropractic treatments. However, if pain persists, Advanced Pain Management & Spine Specialists (APMSS) of Fort Myers now offers a procedure to address back pain emanating from the facet joints.

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed in about 15 minutes. The procedure is performed in Park Center for Procedures, located downstairs in the APMSS facility. If medically indicated, sedation can be utilized in certain instances.

Initially (depending on insurance coverage), two separate diagnostic injections must be performed to determine whether sufficient relief can be achieved.

Under fluoroscopy (real time X-ray), small needles are precisely positioned to block the nerves going to the facet joints. In most cases, both sides are treated at this time. Once properly located, lidocaine is administered to numb the joints. If the patient receives at least 80 percent relief from the initial diagnostic injections, then radiofrequency (RF) ablation can be performed.

In the final, definitive radiofrequency ablation procedure, small needles are similarly placed. After numbing the nerve, the tip of the needle is heated to ablate (or short circuit) the corresponding joint’s nerve.

Eighty percent of patients who receive radiofrequency ablation often achieve pain relief that can last between 9 months to 2 years. The radiofrequency procedure can be repeated if the pain returns (with no diagnostic injections needed).

Radiofrequency procedures can also be performed in the neck for cervical arthritis, thoracic areas for arthritis and for persistent sacroiliac pain after similar diagnostic injections.

Many painful conditions can be relieved through the advanced procedures offered by Advanced Pain Management & Spine Specialists. These procedures often provide long-term solutions for even pain that has existed for many years.

Resume an active, comfortable life. Begin with an examination by one of our pain management physicians.

Call 239-437-8000 or visit us at: (Get to know our skilled doctors under the “About Us” tab on the site’s Home page.)

8255 College Parkway, Suite 200, Fort Myers, FL 33919

Located in South Fort Myers on College Parkway between Winkler Road and Whiskey Creek Parkway