Q: My doctor has told me that in order to try and stop my neck pain, he is recommending that I undergo a procedure to "burn" the nerve. What is he talking about?
The medical term for this procedure is called Radio-Frequency Ablation, or RFA, where your doctor will cauterize the nerve or nerves that they believe is causing the pain. The procedure involves heating up the nerve tissue with the electrical current produced by a radio wave. The procedure is not a permanent solution as the nerves will begin to regenerate within 6-12 months. At that point, you will have to have the procedure repeated. Besides the immediate pain relief, which up to 70% of patients experience, if an individual nerve can be identified as causing your pain, the doctor will then be able to focus future treatment on the specific area.
During RFA, you will be administered local anesthesia and your doctor will then insert a small needle into the area where you are experiencing pain, using an x-ray as a guide. Once the doctor identifies the general area, he will then insert a small electrode to begin to stimulate the area to determine if they are operating on the correct nerve tissue. Once the doctor identifies the correct area, a radio frequency current is sent to the area, causing the tissue to heat up. You do not feel any pain during this process.