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Radiofrequency ablation

A minimally invasive treatment for back pain

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that can provide lasting relief to those suffering from lumbar or cervical facet joint pain.4567 In fact, selected clinical studies show that RFA significantly reduces pain for up to six months or longer in patients.78


  • Longer-lasting pain relief compared to steroid injections9
  • Low complication rate10119
  • Greater range of motion12
  • Lower use of analgesics912
  • Improved quality of life912
  • Short recovery time9

Procedure risks

Talk to your doctor

More than one-third of American adults have low back pain that affects activities of daily living and exercise,13 and nearly half of back pain sufferers are not helped by surgery.11

What to expect with radiofrequency ablation

Before the procedure

Your doctor will confirm your diagnosis. If you are a good candidate for RFA, your doctor will ask you for the following information:

  • Current medications, including herbal supplements and their dosages
  • Known drug, iodine or latex allergies
  • Current health conditions

During the procedure

RFA may be performed while you’re awake, but sedated. Your back is numbed with a local anesthetic. Using x-ray imaging, your doctor inserts a needle and electrode and guides them to the treatment area. A high-frequency electrical current then passes through the electrode, heating up and “lesioning” the sensory nerve.14

After the procedure

Your blood pressure and pulse will be monitored before you go home. You may feel sore or have pain in the treated area, but most people are able to return to work and normal activities within three days. Pain relief is typically experienced one to three weeks after RFA.1415 Since nerves can repair themselves, the pain may return. If this happens, talk to your doctor about if the procedure can be repeated.15