For some people, certain facet-related back pain cannot be relieved with traditional treatments. The facet joints connect the bones (vertebrae) in your spine to each other. Each of the bones has two small facet joints located on the back. Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment option for facet-related back pain that destroys the nerves that supply the facet joint and transmit pain signals.
Radiofrequency ablation is an outpatient procedure. You should arrange to have someone drive you home following your treatment. Do not take anti-inflammatory medication for several days prior to your procedure, to help prevent excess bleeding. Although the actual treatment is short, the preparation and aftercare process usually totals a few hours.
For the procedure, two thin needles are inserted into the facet joint under X-ray guidance. After you receive numbing medication, the radio waves are delivered through the needles. This generates heat around the nerve, which destroys (ablates) the nerve’s ability to send pain signals. The needles are removed after the treatment. You may receive pain medication to take at home.
You may experience a slight increase in pain for the first few weeks following radiofrequency ablation; however, your treatment, if successful, should last a few months. Following treatment, your doctor may recommend that you participate in physical therapy to strengthen your spine to help prevent the pain from coming back. As the nerves regrow, radiofrequency ablation may be repeated.