Radiofrequency denervation (also known as facet rhizolysis, radiofrequency ablation or radiofrequency neurotomy) is a procedure used to treat neck and back pain that originates in the facet joints.
The spine is made up of vertebrae sitting one of top of the other in a column. The facet joints sit in pairs between each vertebrae, acting like hinges for the spine to keep the spine stabilised whilst also allowing bending and twisting movement. The facet joints can become inflamed due to injury, trauma such as whiplash, poor posture, structural problems or wear and tear. As a consequence, pain is felt around these joints and can spread. In particular lower back facets can cause referred pain in the buttocks and upper legs. Facet joints in the neck lead to pain in the back of the head, the upper back, and shoulders. When the facet joints are sensitive and tender, muscles nearby can tighten and feel painful.
Radiofrequency denervation uses heat produced by radio waves, delivered through a needle, to deactivate the nerves that supply the facet joints, preventing these nerves transmitting pain signals to your brain when the joints become inflamed.
You may only be advised to have radiofrequency denervation if you’ve had facet joint injections, as that procedure will confirm your back or neck pain is coming from your facet joints. Radiofrequency denervation aims to provide longer-term pain relief than a facet joint injection.
What happens during this procedure?
Your consultant will ensure that the area of skin to be injected is clean. He or she will then inject local anaesthetic into the area of skin surrounding the injection site. Under the guidance of a live X-ray your consultant will insert a special needle (a radiofrequency probe) into to the affected area of your back or neck. Radiofrequency waves will then be applied to heat the tip of the needle and destroy the nerve endings.
The procedure will usually take about half an hour.
How long will it take to recover and what results can be expected?
You may be asked to lay flat for about 30 minutes after the procedure. You should be able to go home after a few hours but you will need someone to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours. Try to rest completely for 24 hours.
It is quite common to have some pain or discomfort in the back for a few days after the procedure, particularly at the injection site. You can take painkillers and use an ice pack to help. As the pain starts to lessen try to keep as active as you can but be careful not to overdo it.
Radiofrequency denervation doesn’t work for everyone. If you do have pain relief it’s likely to be effective for around 6 to 12 months or maybe, at most, a few years. Some patients will feel immediate relief, for others the pain may be much worse before relief develops some days after the procedure.
Success in the long term will be largely dependent on physiotherapy to strengthen the core muscles and help reduce the likelihood and severity of pain returning.
At One Healthcare we can book you in to see a specialist Orthopaedic or Pain Management Consultant, usually within 48 hours, for an initial consultation. Radiofrequency denervation is available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent and One Hatfield Hospital in Hertfordshire.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Radiofrequency Denervation treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Hatfield
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in December 2017
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, X-ray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience
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