Radiofrequency Ablation for Chronic Neck Pain

Your spine stretches all the way from the base of your head down to your pelvis, but certain areas are more prone to chronic pain than others, including your neck. While the pain itself is hard to weather, it also hampers your ability to turn your head freely to see and hear the world around you. 

If you want to be able to swivel your head without being met by pain, radiofrequency ablation may be just the solution.

The team of pain management specialists at Comprehensive Pain Management, led by Dr. Boris Shwartzman and Dr. Do Chan, understands better than most the many conditions that can lead to chronic pain. More importantly, we also offer effective treatment options that can put an end to the discomfort.

Here, we explore one of those options — radiofrequency ablation — which is highly effective in relieving chronic neck pain.

A pain in the neck

As we discussed, certain areas of your spine are more vulnerable to painful conditions because they enjoy more movement, including your cervical spine (neck) and your lumbar spine (lower back). 

Your cervical spine is made up of seven small vertebrae that are separated by discs, and it’s in these discs where many problems can start. For example, if you develop cervical degenerative disc disease, your discs lose moisture and become more brittle, putting them at risk for bulging or rupture.

Equally as uncomfortable, you can develop cervical osteoarthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage around your facet joints breaks down, allowing your bones to rub together.

Another common problem we encounter is cervical spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing in your spinal canal. This narrowing compresses sensitive nerve roots in the area, causing both local and radiating symptoms (radiculopathy).

Rounding out the list of common culprits of neck pain are injuries — both old and new.

Stopping the pain

While we offer many different pain management treatments, RFA is a great frontline treatment for chronic and persistent spine and joint pain.

Radiofrequency ablation is a technique in which we stop the pain signaling by creating an adhesion on the nerve that’s been compromised. Also called a rhizotomy, this is a minimally invasive procedure that we can perform right here in our office.

To perform the RFA, we apply a topical anesthetic to your skin and then insert a needle, using fluoroscopy (X-ray guidance) to ensure that we target the right nerve. Once in place, we deliver radiofrequency waves to ablate (burn) the end of the nerve, rendering it unable to send signals to your brain.

The procedure takes us only minutes to execute, and once we clear you afterward, you’re free to return home. You may feel some residual pain for a week or two after your RFA, but you should realize gradual improvement.

In most cases, the pain relief after an RFA procedure lasts anywhere from nine months to two years, though results can vary. Nerves do heal and grow back, so we may need to repeat the procedure. Better still, many of our patients use their window of pain relief to take the steps necessary to keep the pain at bay, such as physical therapy.

If you’re tired of struggling with chronic neck pain, contact one of our offices — located in Attleboro or Franklin, Massachusetts, as well as South Kingstown or Warwick, Rhode Island — to explore whether radiofrequency ablation is right for you.

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