An RFA or Radiofrequency Facet Ablation is oftentimes called a “nerve ablation” or “burning the nerve.” It is a procedure that is usually performed after identifying a specific nerve in your spine that causes pain (e.g., neck pain, mid-back pain, low-back pain) with an MBB (Medial Branch Block) and then eliminating the pain signal so that you get relief from your pain. During the procedure, we use safe radio waves to create a highly targeted electrical current that heats up the specific nerves and reduces the pain signals from that area.
This is a great question. Typically you would not want to, but there are many circumstances where this becomes a great option. In fact, RFA is a great option only if you plan to actively rehabilitate and strengthen the area so the pain does not come back. RFA or facet ablations helps you get longer-lasting pain relief than other interventional procedures. This opens the rehab window that allows our team of physical therapists, chiropractors, and medical staff to properly care for and treat your pain in order to get you healthy and strong.
The pain relief from RFAs or nerve ablations can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months. The more damage has been done to the area you are treating, the more likely it is that you will need to repeat the procedure. After receiving an RFA, if you do not properly rehab the area to regain full function, you may need to get RFAs every six months to live pain-free. However, with proper rehabilitation and strengthening of the pain area, we work to extend the pain relief period and return you to normal, pain-free function for years instead of months. What is important to remember is that RFAs are best used as a way to open a longer-lasting rehab window to give you time to address the root-cause of your pain.
Facet or nerve ablations are never a guarantee of complete pain relief. In fact, there are no guarantees in any procedure in health care. However, if you did not get any pain relief with the ablation, the best thing to do is to talk to your doctor about it. In most case, they can offer you alternatives that may further benefit you while providing you with the rehab window you need to properly strengthen and recover the damaged area. In fact, our team of providers has multiple options beyond RFAs to help our patients eliminate their pain so that they can go back to living healthy and enjoyable lives.
If you have acute or chronic neck pain, mid-back or low-back pain and have tried multiple options to get free of pain but have had limited or no success, you are probably a great candidate for our program.