Radiofrequency ablation, also known as RFA, is a minimally invasive treatment option for spinal pain caused by facet joint disorders. Many patients suffering from neck pain or lower back pain are dealing with an undiagnosed facet joint issue.
At California Orthopedics & Spine, our spinal specialists will evaluate your condition to determine the best course of treatment. If you are suffering from a facet joint disorder or a similar spinal condition, RFA may be recommended as part of your treatment plan.
What are facet joint disorders?
Facet joint disorders are a common cause of chronic or persistent spinal pain. Usually, these disorders develop at the back of your spine, most commonly around the lower back or neck. When severe, these disorders can turn into osteoarthritis.
The spine is made up of many smaller bones, called vertebrae. Facet joints exist on the back of nearly every vertebra of the spine. These facet joints exist to stabilize the vertebrae and prevent over-twisting or overextension of the spine, which can damage your spinal cord and nervous system. Facet joint disorders develop when the cartilage between the spinal bones starts to wear down. This wearing down of the cartilage can cause the joints to become misaligned and rub together in a harmful manner, which irritates the nerves around your spine. The inflamed nerves eventually start to cause back pain and other symptoms.
Symptoms of Facet Joint Disorders
If there is not enough cartilage between the facet joints, the bony parts of the joints can start to rub in a harmful manner, causing bone spurs, stiffness, pain, and swelling. The misaligned joints can irritate the roots of nerves in the surrounding area, leading to more back pain.
Facet joint disorders usually cause a loss of flexibility in the affected area. In the neck, this manifests as difficulty or inability to look left or right without turning your whole body. In the lower back, bending to sit in a chair or straightening the back when standing after sitting can be painful or difficult. Pain can radiate from a band around the waist area into the glutes and legs in some cases.
Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment
RFA works by heating the nerves that are causing back pain around the facet joints. The heat is applied via an electrical current, which diminishes or sometimes eliminates the pain signals being sent by the inflamed nerves. The electrical current is administered using tiny needles to precisely target the nerves causing the pain. Fluoroscopy, which is a form of live X-ray, allows your doctor to visualize the nerves during the procedure, ensuring your treatment is as accurate as possible.
Usually, other treatment options such as physical therapy or therapeutic injections will be considered before RFA. When chronic back pain is not treated by other methods, many patients find that they feel the results shortly after the RFA procedure.
Radiofrequency Ablation for the Spine in Marin County, CA
If you are suffering from chronic back pain or spinal problems, give us a call. Our doctors specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal problems, and we will be happy to discuss all your treatment options with you after a thorough consultation and exam.