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Has anyone tried radiofrequency nerve ablation?

I have been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis (L4 over L5, grade 1) AND lumbar spinal stenosis, with some nerve pinching somewhere back there that causes left hip problems. I do not think I am a good candidate for surgery at this point. I am a diabetic, and from the research I've done, that is one big strike against me, as diabetics do not always have great success from surgery, plus the healing time for a diabetic is much longer. I am not in the kind of "screaming pain" that I read about from others. I can still function fairly well. I just have to be careful with what I do. I have read about radiofrequency nerve ablation for pain relief (sometimes referred to as a "nerve burn") but I have not tried it. Has anyone had this procedure as an alternative to surgery? If so, did it work? I have had 3 injections in my lower back already, none of which did much good. But I have not had this nerve ablation procedure. I am considering it. Any input from the experience of others would be appreciated.


  • Oh, forgot to mention this: I have been told I also have osteoarthritis in my spine.
  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 3,437

    I have never had this procedure done but should have years ago.
    But while we are waiting for other members to reply, below is a link from a recent post that might be helpful.

    My experience with Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) - it wasn't too bad

    I know you have researched this subject but this is someone's experience.
    Keep us posted.
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my Medical History
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  • Hi BBJ. I am scheduled for a denervation in June. I'm not sure how the results will be, but my pain doc told me I could have relief for up to 11 to 13 months. Unfortunately the nerves will grow back :( I'm stuggling with SI joint issues. The pain becomes almost unbareable some days. I'm 33, so I'm trying to hold off on surgery for now. I'm ready for this to go away already. I had several injections too. One I had 3 months of relief. Hopefully someone will offer insight into the denervation/nerve burn. I'd love to hear positive results associated with this!
  • julz8407, I would be very interested in hearing how your procedures goes. I think my biggest problem is that I am afraid of any pain that might be associated with this procedure because if I feel that pain and "jump", then I might mess up what the doctor is trying to do.
  • joowee40joowee40 Mississippi Posts: 164
    Typically they will do a diagnostic medial nerve branch block to see if that is your pain generator before moving the RFA. I have had the block and am waiting for my follow up to see if I got enough of a result to have the RFA. I don't think I did. I'm dreading having RFA done after hearing others and hearing my nurse tell me her experience but anything would be worth going thru temporary agony to get to long term relief.
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  • BBJ,

    I had 2 RF's back in 1998, In between my first Thoracic spine surgery in '96 and second in 2001.

    I was lightly sedated to relax, but definitely awake so I could tell the doctor if I felt the RF 'buzzing' (for lack of a better word). They were done in my thoracic spine. It wasn't painful, just a sensation I'd never felt before. I rested afterwards in post-op and told to lie down. I had a 2nd one done as he wasn't pleased 100% with the first one. I must say the 2nd RF seemed deeper on the nerve. I was left with some pain relief for a few months. I still have a numb spot in that area. I can't really say either way if it was worth it or not as my thoracic pain returned. But I was doing the 'ladder' of epidurals, facet joint injections, and the RF was the next step. I don't feel like I was very helpful, all I could do was relate my own experience.

    Gentle Hugs....
  • I had an RFA done 9 days ago. I had the medial nerve block prior and did experience about a 50% pain reduction which I had to have before being a candidate for the RFA. I was dreading it (The RFA) as I had been told that it is a really painful procedure. That couldn't be any further from the truth. I had a bilateral (both sides) RFA and the doctor administered a very low dose of general anesthetic which enabled me to speak and answer questions from the doctor during the procedure. I actually felt NO PAIN during the procedure which lasted about 40 minutes. It actually felt like no time at all had passed. So....long story short, don't be afraid of pain during the procedure. As long as the Dr can give you an IV drip and administer the drug you will be fine.
  • I had it done, it did not last for more than about a week. Not worth it. Also, I fear greater vulnerability for arachnoditis with this and multiple other procedures like the injections.

  • I just had c2-5 done, on the right side, and have to go back in 2 weeks for the left side. I was terrified prior to the procedure, because it was involving nerves, i had sedation (IV) and local numbing meds. It was not bad at all, it was no more painful than the facet injections that i had previously. I feel it is too soon to say if it was a success, i will say i have been headache free since ( i have done activities that would normally cause a headache) my neck is tender, slightly numb, and the skin feels sunburned all very tolerable in comparison to before. I hope this helps ease your mind.
  • Also BBJ, my doctor has a foam ball that they give me to squeeze when i really want to jump off the table! it really helps:)
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