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Pain Management Blog



23Mar

Treating Joint Pain with Radiofrequency Ablation

As we get older, our joints lose some of their function and certain parts of our body, quite literally, begin to wear out. This lack of function and loss can be uncomfortable, discouraging, and painful for many of us. While early on, a soak in a warm bath or a mild over the counter pain relief may help you experience relief, as the joints continue to work, you may be seeking more. Radiofrequency ablation is one of the options recommended for many by our team at Republic Pain Specialists.

What is it?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “radiofrequency ablation uses an electric current to heat up a small area of nerve tissue to stop it from sending pain signals.” Usually, patients are given IV medication to relax the body, medical staff applies a small amount of local anesthetic, then a needle is inserted close to where pain is being felt. With a microelectrode, a current then heats the nerve tissue, blocking pain signals. This procedure is also commonly used in venous insufficiency, for patients with thyroid nodules, and to treat benign and malignant tumors.

What is it best for?

This procedure is especially effective for patients with joint issues, especially arthritic joints, and lower back and neck pain. Patients having chronic pain feel a large amount of relief when this procedure is done and can feel that relief for 6-12 months after. In fact, one study by Johns Hopkins found that 70% of patients felt better for a year or more.

Are there concerns?

There are less complications associated with radiofrequency ablation than other pain relief methods. Most patients need to take it easy for the rest of the day and may need to avoid rigorous activity the next day but can quickly resume normal activity. There are no dietary changes that need to happen afterwards, but you will want to visit with your health provider about medication concerns ahead of time. There may be a small amount of numbness after and some patients have a small amount of bruising or bleeding at the injection site, but side effects are usually minimal.

Why choose it?

While some joint issues and shoulder injuries may need surgical repair or may be strongly considered for joint replacement surgery, these solutions are much more invasive than radiofrequency ablation. Surgical options can also lead to more downtime, the potential for physical therapy, and in some cases a need for pain relief as recovery and healing happens. Radiofrequency ablation can avoid some of these concerns before surgery is even suggested. If surgery or joint replacement is decided as the best course of action, by having radiofrequency ablation done before your procedure, you may experience less pain post-surgery and have an easier time in rehabilitation as you have a wider range of movement with less discomfort.

If you are experiencing any kind of joint pain, and want to know if radiofrequency ablation may be a good course of action for you, contact us today. Even if this procedure isn’t determined to be the best next step, we work with each of our patients to understand their pain, to identify the source, and to create a pain management plan that makes sense.

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