There are times when chronic back, hip, and neck pain do not respond well to traditional treatments. In such cases, general practitioners may refer their patients to pain specialists. A pain specialist might recommend something known as radiofrequency neurotomy. Despite its intimidating name, the treatment is safe. To those patients for whom it provides pain relief, it might be considered a miracle cure.
Because radiofrequency neurotomy is a highly specialized treatment, GPs generally don’t offer it. They refer their patients to chronic pain specialists instead. GPs in the Dallas area, for example, might refer their patients to Lone Star Pain Medicine. Radiofrequency neurotomy is just one of the alternative treatments Lone Star clinicians offer.
Lone Star notes that radiofrequency neurotomy is:
- minimally invasive (only involving a needle)
- an outpatient procedure
- safe, with minimal risk of complications.
The therapy is often recommended as a treatment for facet joint syndrome. However, it could be recommended for any nerve-related issue in the back, hips, and neck.
Primary Treatment Mechanism
Radiofrequency neurotomy’s pain-relieving mechanism is rooted in its ability to affect how nerves function. The therapy is designed to interfere with that function on a temporary basis. Simply put, preventing the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain effectively blocks the pain for as long as the nerves are disabled.
The goal is not to damage the affected nerves. It is simply to ‘turn them off’ temporarily. As such, radiofrequency neurotomy is not a permanent fix to chronic back, neck, or hip pain. But it can be a more attractive alternative to invasive surgery or long-term pain medication use.
How the Procedure Is Performed
Patients electing to receive radiofrequency neurotomy first consult with their doctors and then make an appointment to have the procedure done. When the time comes, the patient lies on a treatment table, face down. A local anesthetic is applied to numb the skin and the tissue beneath it.
Next, a needle is inserted near the location of the pain. The doctor then uses imaging equipment to guide the needle to the appropriate location. Once in place, radio waves are passed through the needle and into the tissue where they cause the affected nerves to vibrate and heat up. This effectively turns them off.
At the completion of treatment, the needle is removed and the site bandaged. Patients may be asked to stick around for a few minutes to observe how well they are recovering. In the days following the procedure, patients can expect soreness around the injection site. They are also encouraged not to take hot baths for at least two days and not to use heating pads to relieve pain.
Again, radiofrequency neurotomy is not considered a permanent fix for any kind of pain. For those for whom it works, pain relief can last as little as a few weeks or as long as several months. Some patients may need more than one treatment in order to experience the desired level of pain relief.
On the other hand, there are patients who report no pain relief whatsoever. Even after the soreness of the procedure fades away, their chronic pain persists. But at the end of the day, radiofrequency neurotomy is recommended after traditional treatment options have failed. Thus, the patient is no worse for wear.
Radiofrequency neurotomy is a minimally invasive procedure that may help relieve chronic pain in the neck, back, and hips. It is a safe procedure as well. If your doctor recommends it as a treatment for your type of chronic pain, it is at least worth considering.