Radiofrequency nerve ablation is the term used when radio waves are generated and used to produce heat. By generating heat around a nerve, the nerves ability to transmit pain is destroyed, thus ablating the nerve. Radiofrequency ablation is used to destroy the nerves that supply facet joints of the spine. These joints are small posterior joints on either side of the spine and can be a source of back pain.
Prior to consideration of a radiofrequency nerve ablation procedure, the source of your pain needs to be determined by using diagnostic blocks on the various structures in the spine. Once it is established that the facet joints are causing your back pain, you may be a candidate for the actual procedure. The nerve ablation will effectively destroy the nerve fibers around the joint, which transit the pain sensation from the facet joint.
Once the nerves which carry pain sensation from the painful joint are destroyed you should be free of the back pain you are experiencing, if it is coming from this structure. These nerves may regenerate over a period of approximately 6-12 months. However, time, physical therapy and increased muscle strength around this joint may make it less painful if the nerves do regenerate. Patients may not experience the same intensity of pain as prior to the procedure. If there is a recurrence of pain, this procedure can be repeated.
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