Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure Treats Chronic Pain, May Eliminate Need For Opioids
As the opioid crisis wages on, many doctors are trying out different approaches to treat pain – including procedures such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a safe and effective treatment that reduces pain signals using an electrical current to heat an area of nerve tissue.
RFA can be used to treat chronic pain in the neck and lower back headaches, and pain related to arthritis.
An RFA outpatient procedure takes just an hour and is minimally invasive. For the treatment, a doctor uses a thin needle to deliver radio waves to the targeted area. The patient is often given an intravenous sedative, and the targeted area is numbed to minimize pain associated with the ablation.
Side effects may include soreness, mild swelling or a sunburn-like sensation around the sites that can often be alleviated with medication or hot/cold therapy. Patients often rest for a few days before returning to normal activities.
Pain relief from the procedure can last up to a year or more, and over 70 percent of patients who receive the treatment say they experience less pain.
A recent study showed that of 57 patients who suffered from headaches and received 72 RFAs, 46 stated that 64 of the treatments were effective, and lessened pain significantly for an average duration of four months. Around one-third of the treatments produced relief for five months or more.
According to a press release distributed by SB Wire, the RFA market continues to benefit from the demand for “noninvasive and minimally invasive medical procedures” and is poised to “receive sustained demand from the healthcare sector, particularly in developed countries with government-backed healthcare programs…”
One reason for this demand is the increasing numbers of people employed at sedentary jobs associated with shoulder and spine pain. Moreover, a “rising incidence of chronic muscle disorders in North America is a prime driver for the radiofrequency ablation market in the region.”
Another reason, however, may be increasing pressure on doctors to find alternatives to painkillers in the midst of the opioid epidemic, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is now killing tens of thousands each year, and leaving millions of others addicted to painkillers or switching to heroin.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology