The Role of Radiofrequency Ablation in Relieving Pain

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 The Role of Radiofrequency Ablation in Relieving Pain

Chronic pain can be difficult to treat. Sometimes pain remains, even after the original injury heals. When conservative treatments produce insufficient results, it may mean stronger drugs in larger doses or surgery that might have a relatively low chance for success. 

At Premier Pain Consultants in San Antonio, Texas, we’re continually adding to our arsenal of pain treatments so you have options when a particular method doesn’t provide you with relief. 

Dr. Dmitriy Buyanov and our team often recommend a technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA) when conservative treatments fail to relieve pain in your back, hips, knees, or shoulders. Creating pinpoint heat in a method similar to that of microwaves, RFA selectively disrupts pain transmissions from sensory nerves, creating long-term reduction in pain. 

The challenges of chronic pain

While there are plenty of treatments for pain, particularly with medications, chronic pain introduces a series of challenges. 

Most medicinal pain relievers work best as short-term solutions. Your body can build resistance to the pain-relieving properties of many drugs, requiring higher dosages or stronger medications. This is one factor that contributed to the opioid epidemic. 

Conservative techniques are often less effective overall, requiring combinations of treatments that may still come up short, relying on pain meds and their escalating side effects. RFA offers a minimally invasive, long-term pain relief approach that works when other treatments fail. 

Radiofrequency ablation

The energy produced by a radiofrequency field excites water molecules and heats up tissue. This is the same way that microwaves heat food. Applied to chronic pain, RFA (also called radiofrequency neurotomy) targets sensory nerve tissue in problem areas, destroying local nerve tissue and stopping the transmission of pain sensations to the brain. 

During the RFA procedure, a tiny hollow needle delivers an electrode to the target area. Once activated, heat creates a lesion on the nerve that’s sending the objectionable pain signals. With the nerve tissue disrupted, the pain signals end. 

While your body may regenerate nerve tissue, you should enjoy reduced or eliminated levels of pain. 

The duration of pain relief varies widely, anywhere from six months to several years. In some cases, pain may be reduced but not eliminated. You may still require pain medications, but in lower quantities. 

The benefits of RFA

Pain relief is the biggest benefit from an RFA procedure. Before you undergo this process, we confirm the nerve or nerves involved by injecting a pain block. If this injection relieves your chronic pain, it’s likely you’ll benefit from the RFA to turn off pain signals at the source. 

Other advantages of RFA include: 

  • A minor, minimally invasive procedure
  • Minimal recovery time (about 24 hours until you can resume your normal day)
  • Reduced or no need for pain medication
  • Improved pain-free function and flexibility in the target area

Pain relief may be immediate, or it may take up to 10 days before you feel significant improvements. If your pain returns at a later date, we can repeat the RFA procedure. 

Consult with Dr. Buyanov and our Premier Pain Consultants team to learn more about RFA and how it can help your chronic pain condition. Call or click to make an appointment with our San Antonio, Texas, office today.