Radiofrequency technology has been around for approximately 30 years. The science involves the transmission of electric energy applied to nerves that are transmitting painful signals towards the brain and spinal cord where they are perceived. The result is a disruption in the nerve’s ability to transmit painful stimuli.
RF (for short) can be done either in a destructive (lesioning) manner, in which heat is actually destroying the affected nerves, or in a non-destructive fashion, called “pulsed” RF.
The recent advancement of pulsed RF makes RF an excellent modality to treat painful conditions that were otherwise intractable without surgery.
Common pain syndromes that can be effectively treated with RF include:
- Low back and neck pain from facet related pain, and/or sciatica.
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
- Occipital neuralgia
- Intercostal neuralgia
- Shingles related pain
- Frozen shoulder syndrome
- Trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain involving the 5th cranial nerve)
RF is usually performed in a monitored setting under light sedation and with fluoroscopic guidance to verify correct needle placement. It may be considered after temporary local/steroid injections have resulted in significant improvement, albeit temporary. Patients may experience prolonged relief lastinga few months or longer. It may sometimes need to be repeated for various reasons.