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Can Radiofrequency Ablation Alleviate My Neck Pain?

Chronic pain can make your world smaller and your life less interesting. If you find yourself avoiding activities you once enjoyed, or notice that your neck pain is affecting your mood, then you probably understand how pain can be limiting.

At Downtown Pain Management, Dr. Ron Ben-Meir and our staff specialize in helping patients find relief from chronic pain, including chronic neck pain. And, if you’re thinking pain management means medications, keep reading. There are many ways to help ease your pain, including radiofrequency ablation.  

Your cervical spine

Your spine is divided into three sections: the lumbar spine, which is your lower back, your thoracic spine, or the middle of your back, and your cervical spine, which is your neck. Your cervical spine connects to your skull. Each of those sections is made up of vertebrae and little, fluid-filled cushions between them, called disks. 

All of your vertebrae have two sets of bony protrusions and where they meet is a facet joint. Thanks to your facet joints, your spine is incredibly mobile. Your facet joints allow you to bend forward and backward, as well as to twist from side-to-side. 

Facet joints are encased in capsules of soft tissue. Those capsules produce synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant for the facet joints, which are also covered with a layer of cartilage which also helps the joints move smoothly. 

When the cartilage begins to wear, or the capsule doesn’t produce enough synovial fluid, the nerves and nerve roots that pass through the facet joints to your spinal cord send pain signals to your brain. 

There are many reasons your cervical spine might begin to cause chronic pain. Injury, arthritis, and conditions that affect your nervous system are just a few possibilities. Radiofrequency ablation helps pain related to the facet joints in your cervical spine. 

How Radiofrequency Ablation Helps 

Radiofrequency ablation is a technique that precisely targets nerve tissue, heats it up, and damages it. Since the nerve sending the pain signals is damaged, your brain no longer receives the signals. It’s similar to a nerve block but lasts longer. 

Radiofrequency ablation has a good rate of success. More than 70% of people who have the procedure experience pain relief. And, that relief lasts -- usually for about six months to a year, or even longer. 

What you should expect

Radiofrequency ablation is non-invasive, which means it’s not a surgery. You may be sedated and we use a local anesthetic so that you remain comfortable during the procedure. Dr. Ben-Meir precisely places a needle and electrode using fluoroscopy, which is like a live X-ray.

Once everything is placed, Dr. Ben-Meir uses an electrical current to perform the procedure. You likely won’t feel anything, but if you do, it may be a slight feeling of warmth or a kind of thumping sensation. 

You may have some soreness and swelling on the site, but that should fade within a few days at most. Our staff gives you detailed instructions before you go home regarding care and anything you may need to avoid -- for example, you shouldn’t swim right away. 

It takes about two weeks for the damaged nerves to stop working, so your relief may not be immediate. However, once the nerves cease sending pain signals, you should notice a difference. 

If you’d like to learn more about radiofrequency ablation and how it works, schedule an appointment at any of the three Downtown Pain Management locations today. We’re happy to answer your questions! 

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