Radiofrequency Ablation uses special radio waves to target specific nerves and generate heat, temporarily turning off the ability of those nerves to send pain signals. 

The treating physician will insert small needles into the skin near the painful area and deliver radio waves to the targeted nerves. Your doctor will use diagnostic imaging during Radiofrequency Ablation to make sure they have positioned the needles properly.

Spine, Knee, and Hip Specialists all commonly use Radiofrequency Ablation, as overactive nerve pain commonly occurs in the back, neck and buttocks (sacroiliac joint) as well as the knee and hip joint.

Uses for Radiofrequency Ablation

Doctors who specialize in treating pain usually perform Radiofrequency Ablations with the goal of reducing chronic back, neck, hip or knee pain that hasn’t improved with medications or physical therapy, or when surgery isn’t an option.

For example, your doctor may suggest RFA if you have pain that:

  • Occurs on one or both sides of the lower back
  • Spreads to the buttock and thigh regions (above the knee)
  • Feels worse when twisting or lifting¬†
  • Feels better when lying down

Pain Specialists may also recommend Radiofrequency Ablation to treat neck pain associated with whiplash.

During radiofrequency Ablation

As an outpatient procedure, patients will go home later that same day after Radiofrequency Ablation.

Patients will wear a hospital gown and lie on their stomach on an X-ray table. A professional will place an intravenous (IV) line in the arm or hand to deliver medication that will keep the patient comfortable during the procedure. The physician will then inject numbing medication into the skin before inserting the radiofrequency needles.

The doctor will then use a special X-ray machine called a fluoroscope, to guide the radiofrequency needles to the precise area targeting only the overactive nerve tissue.