Will Lumbar Radiofrequency Ablation Relieve Your Pain?

Lumbar radiofrequency ablation, sometimes referred to as rhizotomy, is a fairly non-invasive procedure that offers long-term relief for certain types of pain. The technique has been used to treat neuropathic conditions of the lumbar region of the spine since 1972.

Will it work on the type of pain you’re experiencing?

Radiofrequency ablation can treat a variety of pain symptoms stemming from nerve damage. However, lumbar radiofrequency ablation is used to help patients who suffer from nerve pain stemming from the spine. It’s often used as a treatment for degenerative disk disease, arthritis, and other painful ailments related to the nerves.

What is lumbar radiofrequency ablation?

Unlike some other pain relief treatments for nerve damage, radio frequency ablation doesn’t rely on an addition to your body. For example, injections release specialized mixes of medication to target inflammation, or spinal cord stimulation works with the use of an implanted device and wires. Instead, lumbar radio frequency ablation works by targeting inflamed nerves with electricity in order to burn away the damaged section – thereby reducing the pain signals being sent from that nerve to the brain by removing the source, allowing for relief from the chronic pain.

What is it like to receive a lumbar radiofrequency ablation procedure?

 The lumbar rhizotomy is one of the most minimally invasive treatment therapies for nerve pain. It also has a relatively low number of side effects, which include the standard warnings for most treatments – like the chance of infection and bruising. You can expect the treatment time itself to be about 30 minutes. You should bring someone with you, as you’ll need a ride home after you receive your lumbar radio frequency ablation.

When you arrive at the clinic, you’ll change into a medical gown in preparation for the procedure. Then, you’ll be escorted into the procedure room, where you’ll rest on the table. You’ll probably receive some light sedation intravenously, but you’ll remain awake through the procedure. This allows your doctor to communicate with you to ensure your comfort and to ensure a positive outcome.

Next, the injection site will be cleaned to prevent infection, and a needle will be inserted with the help of a special x-ray called a fluoroscope. At the tip of this needle is an electrode that carries radio frequency. This tiny instrument heats up targets damaged nerves, burning small areas away.

After the procedure, the injection site will be carefully bandaged for further protection from infection, and you’ll spend some time in recovery to ensure your body is properly responding to the treatment. This is the easy portion of the day. You’ll stay there until the nurse has deemed you’re ready to go home.

And the real question… does it hurt?

 Let’s be honest; it’s not painless, but this minimally invasive procedure, which can dramatically reduce chronic pain, will allow you to walk out the door on the same day. There is an adjustment period after the procedure, but most people go back to work within a few days.

Can a lumbar rhizotomy rid you of your chronic pain? Contact us today!


David Byrd, MD, MPH. Sean Mackey, MD, PhD. (2008, January 12). Pulsed Radiofrequency for Chronic Pain. Curr Pain Headache Rep. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913603/.

Ray M. Baker, MD. (2013, May 24). Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure. Spine-health. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/injections/radiofrequency-ablation-procedure.

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