Radiofrequency In Pain Management

What is Radiofrequency Treatment?

treatment for back pain using radiofrequency ablationRadiofrequency (RF) treatment uses an alternating current of high frequency electromagnetic waves that generates thermal energy. The frequency of the waves is the rate at which they oscillate. This rate, measured in hertz (Hz) and determined by an RF generator, depends on the procedure conducted. A carefully placed electrode transfers this energy to soft tissues in the body. The energy affects tissue in the area just surrounding the electrode. RF treatment first became commercially viable in the 1950s, and since then, its use has grown considerably as a medical treatment.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

In pain management, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a quick and minimally invasive treatment often done on an outpatient basis. RFA is precise, and ablates (or disables) specific nerves and other tissues that are sources of chronic pain. Once a nerve or tissue receives the energy from the electrode and a lesion forms, pain signals are blocked.

This form of treatment has advantages over laser ablation in that it does not burn surrounding tissue with excessive heat. In fact, many radiofrequency ablation treatments now use an electrode with a tip that stays cool. While commonly used to treat back pain, RFA can theoretically help in any area of the body where pain exists. RFA is a new treatment in medicine and one currently involved in active research and development.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Back Pain

As radiofrequency ablation becomes more common, more and more back pain sufferers are benefiting from the treatment. RFA targets nerves in the back that result in chronic pain. RFA for low back pain targets the nerves surrounding facet joints in the lumbar spine. Facet joints help to connect each vertebra,and when the nerves surrounding these joints are disabled, the back pain decreases.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Joint Pain

Radiofrequency ablation treatments focused around painful joints reduce discomfort caused by arthritis and other conditions. Similar to the treatments involving nerves around the spine for back pain, nerves around other joints in the body are treated. Ablation electrodes placed at nerves where the joint articulates reduces the joint pain, once treated.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Headaches and Neck Pain

Another important area of pain management involves migraine relief. Radiofrequency ablation is useful in reducing headaches and pain around the neck and upper back. In this form of RFA, the ablation takes place in the nerves around the cervical (neck) vertebrae facet joints.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are benign growths that frequently cause pain by pressing on nerves and other organs. RFA treatment for fibroids is a new alternative treatment that can significantly relieve this type of pelvic pain, by destroying the mass of tissue. Once destroyed, the body will absorb and remove the fibroid.

Safety and Complications

The RFA procedure, although new, is a safe and effective treatment for many types of chronic pain. Patients may remain pain free for a considerable amount of time after treatment. Occasionally, nerves may grow back causing the pain to return, and this may require further treatments. However, given the fact that RFA is a non-surgical method, repeated ablations are still safe.

Peter Wendt is a blogger interested in medical technologies, treatments and advances. Interested in learning more about radiofrequency ablation? Wendt recommends visiting:

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