Understanding Radiofrequency Ablation

Understanding Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is one of many ways to manage back and joint pain. Unfortunately, not many people have a full understanding of how it works and why it’s an excellent choice for treatment. 

Here at Naples Regenerative Institute in Naples, Florida, interventional pain specialist Glenn Flanagan, MD, often recommends radiofrequency ablation as a nonsurgical and nonpharmaceutical pain care option. 

By reviewing the information in this blog, you can improve your understanding of how radiofrequency ablation can work to manage your pain and come in to get the procedure with confidence if Dr. Flanagan recommends it. 

How radiofrequency ablation works

Like many other minimally invasive treatment options, radiofrequency ablation relies on energy or heat. Using a very gentle form of energy called radiofrequency that does not damage surrounding tissues, the treatment targets specific nerves that fire pain signals to your brain. The targeted energy burns, or ablates, the nerve fibers where your pain originates. 

To be sure that only specific nerves are targeted with radiofrequency ablation, Dr. Flanagan uses fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray) to guide a thin hollow needle precisely into your painful joint or section of your back. He may inject a contrast dye for an even clearer view using the real-time image on a nearby screen. 

As with other minimally invasive procedures, you get radiofrequency ablation after a few numbing injections of local anesthesia. You may also get a sedative to keep you calm and at ease since you’ll be awake the whole time. After a brief recovery and observation period in the office, you get to return home the same day. 

What radiofrequency ablation treats

When medications, conservative procedures, and activity modification don’t ease your chronic back or joint pain as much as you expected, radiofrequency ablation is a more intensive option that might prevent the need for surgery. Dr. Flanagan often uses it to treat:

In many cases, chronic pain in these regions comes from arthritis. It can also come from other conditions, including acute injuries that developed into chronic pain, like rotator cuff tears in the shoulder. 

What to expect after radiofrequency ablation

For many individuals experiencing pain, radiofrequency ablation leads to months or even years of relief. The ablated nerve or nerves may or may not regenerate. If they do, it usually takes 6-12 months. After that time, your pain may return. 

Fortunately, if your pain comes back, radiofrequency ablation is a procedure that can be safely repeated when necessary.

If your chronic neck, back, or joint pain affects your mobility and ability to work, our team at Naples Regenerative Institute can help. To see if radiofrequency ablation is an option for your care, contact us for an appointment with a phone call or by using our online booking tool today.

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