Radiofrequency Ablation for Pain Management

Radiofrequency ablation is a radiologic procedure that reduces pain. It uses an electric current from radio waves to release heat onto a specific area of nerve tissue. The heated nerve gets ablated, stopping it from sending pain signals to the brain.

Patients who suffer from long-term pain in the neck and lower back can find relief through radiofrequency ablation. It is also an amazing treatment option for debilitating joint pain caused by joint degeneration and arthritis.

How effective is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation has good results and is proven effective in relieving pain of over 70% of patients. Since the cause, location, and severity of pain vary from person to person, the effect of the therapy also differs. However, the relief from pain can last from six months to one year. In some cases, pain relief can even last several years.

Advantages of radiofrequency ablation

When it comes to managing and relieving some forms of chronic pain, radiofrequency ablation has been proven effective. Moreover, the procedure is safe and can be tolerated well by patients. The best thing about radiofrequency ablation, aside from its effectiveness, is the fact that it results in little to no complications. Reports of infection and bleeding are very uncommon.

The only known side effects of radiofrequency ablation include minor swelling, bruising, some discomfort in the treatment area, and leg weakness, which go away on their own after several days

What to do before the procedure

Prior to undergoing treatment, your doctor will have to evaluate the signs and symptoms, perform a physical examination, and get your thorough medical history. If radiofrequency ablation is recommended, your pain doctor will explain the treatment, the possible outcome, and any potential side effects. You can ask any questions you may have regarding the procedure.

Also, take note of the following important precautions before undergoing the procedure:

  • Do not eat anything within six hours prior to your treatment. Drinking clear liquids is generally permitted up to 2 hours before the procedure.
  • Patients with diabetes have to adjust their insulin dose the day before the treatment. Your doctor will help you do the adjustment. You may take your medication after the procedure.
  • When it comes to other maintenance medications, you may continue taking them with a small sip of water.
  • Bring someone to drive you home after the procedure, as you are not allowed to drive and operate machines for at least 24 hours after the treatment

How is the treatment done?

You will be given a mild sedative that will help you relax. You will also be given local anesthesia to numb the area of your skin and reduce your discomfort while staying awake throughout the procedure. An intravenous line will be inserted into your arm.

Once the local anesthesia is already working, your doctor will insert a small needle into the area where there’s pain. An X-ray can help guide your doctor to target the exact area. A microelectrode will be inserted through the needle itself

Before the stimulation process begins, your doctor will ask if you can feel a tingling sensation, which can help him identify if the electrode is already in the correct area for treat. Once the placement and location are verified, small radiofrequency currents will be sent through the electrode to heat the targeted nerve tissue.

What happens after the procedure

  • Once the treatment is over, the injection site will be covered with a bandage and your vital signs will be checked.
  • Your doctor may also give you some discharge instructions before letting you go home.
  • You can continue your regular diet and take your medications immediately after the procedure.
  • You are not allowed to drive, or engage in strenuous activities within the first 24 hours after the treatment.
  • No baths. You can shower only after the first 48 hours after the procedure.


If you think you may benefit from radiofrequency ablation, schedule an appointment with our doctor for further advice on the procedure and other pain management options that would work best for you.


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.