Radiofrequency Ablation: Why It May Be the Solution to Your Chronic Back Pain

chronic back pain, RFA for chronic back pain, nonsurgical radiofrequency ablation,

The National Institutes of Health estimates that about eight of every ten men and women in the United States injure their backs and suffer acute back pain at least once in their lifetime. Back pain is one of the most common reasons that employees miss days from work.

Usually, you can control mild acute back pain with a day or two of rest, gentle stretches, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But when your back pain persists for more than three months, you have what’s known as chronic back pain. Chronic back pain can develop from an acute injury that never fully healed, arise as part of a medical condition, or be caused by age-related deterioration, such as arthritis or ruptured vertebral discs.

At Boston PainCare, our integrative team of board-certified physicians treats chronic back pain with a variety of effective nonsurgical and surgical remedies, based on your medical history and underlying conditions. One of the most groundbreaking and effective new therapies to turn off chronic back pain is minimally invasive, nonsurgical radiofrequency ablation (RFA).

Why you feel pain

Pain is a complex cascade of events that usually begins with an acute tissue injury. The nerves surrounding the damaged tissues send signals to your brain, which your brain interprets as pain. When you feel pain, you try to withdraw from the situation that caused the pain, reduce movement in the injured area, and look for relief.

Chronic pain, though, may not follow this classic model of pain response. You may not be aware that you injured yourself, or if you did, the injury healed but the pain remained.

Sometimes you don’t even know why you’re feeling pain in your back or where it’s coming from. You may even have a condition known as neuropathy, where your nerves themselves are damaged or malfunctioning and send pain signals in the absence of tissue damage or other obvious causes.

When you come to Boston PainCare, our doctors first evaluate your chronic back pain to  determine its source. In addition to taking a complete medical and personal history, your doctor may ask you about family members with back pain. They’ll also conduct a comprehensive physical examination that may include palpating the painful area and ordering diagnostic tests, such as X-rays.

Depending on their findings and your individual needs, your doctor may recommend a number of therapies to resolve any issues or disorders in your soft tissues or bones that contribute to your chronic back pain. They may also recommend RFA to turn off the signals that cause your pain, so you can get back to your normal activities without discomfort.

Hitting the nerve center of pain

The first step in turning off your pain’s nerve signals begins when your doctor administers a nerve block to either the medial branch nerve or the lateral branch nerve, which are the two main nerves that affect sensation in your back. Depending on which block gives you relief, your doctor then applies an electrical current to that nerve. Neither of these nerves significantly affects your muscles, so you’ll be able to have a full range of motion after your RFA.

The electrical current heats up the nerve tissue, creating a lesion. The lesion stops the nerve from being able to send a pain signal to the brain. Without a pain signal, your brain doesn’t experience pain, and neither do you.

A simple, minimally invasive procedure

At Boston PainCare, you can get RFA for chronic back pain in the comfort and safety of our offices. While you lie on your stomach, your doctor numbs the treatment area. They then insert a needle under fluoroscopic X-ray guidance, and locate the nerve for ablation.

When the RF energy courses through the needle, you may feel a sensation similar to your chronic back pain. Your back muscles may briefly spasm, too. But after the RFA creates a lesions on the nerve, your pain stops.

Once you’re pain free, our doctors may recommend a rehab program to help build up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support your spine in a healthy alignment. You should be able to return home a few hours after your procedure, so you’ll need to make pre-arrangements for a driver to transport you. You can resume light exercise and normal activities within days of your procedure.

To discuss the possibility of turning off your pain signals with RFA, call us today or book your appointment online. We have three convenient locations in Waltham, Concord, and Natick, Massachusetts.

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