Consumer Health Blog

Suffering from chronic back pain, neck pain, or arthritic joint pain? Radiofrequency ablation can offer you relief.

Monday, June 9th, 2014

A relatively new procedure, radio frequency ablation can relieve your pain for up to two years, expand your range of motion, reduce your use of pain medications, and improve your quality of life. It may even achieve greater success than surgery.

What is radio frequency ablation (RFA)?

RFA is a procedure that destroys nerves’ capability to transmit pain signals to your brain.

Under x-ray guidance, your physician projects radio frequency waves that create heat onto nerves near the facet joints on either side of your spine. RFA is often used to treat severe chronic lower back pain or neck pain.

How does your physician locate the pain-producing areas? In order to test which nerves are causing your pain, your physician will first administer injections of a local anesthetic such as lidocaine in various sites. Those sites in which the anesthetic produces temporary relief from pain will be the areas of choice for radioactive ablation.

What about anesthesia? You will be awake during your procedure thus eliminating risks associated with general anesthesia. However, you will receive sedation to make you sleepy, and your skin will be anesthetized. The procedure usually lasts anywhere from one to two hours, and you will be able to go home shortly after it is finished.

How long will relief from pain last? Unfortunately, nerves do regenerate over time. The amount of time varies with each patient. You can expect anywhere from six to twenty-four months of relief. X-ray exposure during the procedure makes it unadvisable to repeat RFA more than once a year.


Abington Surgical Center pain management physicians perform radio frequency ablation (RFA) as well as other pain-relieving procedures. Please contact your physician to learn more and to discuss which procedure would be most appropriate and beneficial for you. Need a referral to a Pain Management physician? Please call our Referral Coordinator: 267-960-1440. Information provided is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.