Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation Explained

Cervical radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that’s used for the treatment of cervical spine pain. Your cervical spine is the top third of your spinal column and attaches your skull to your torso. The term “radiofrequency” refers to highly-targeted radio waves the doctor delivers to your cervical spine. The radio waves generate heat that destroys small amounts of nerve tissue responsible for nerve problems and pain.
Cervical radiofrequency ablation is considered an alternative to surgery for patients who experience pain or headaches associated with cervical spine changes. An experienced cervical spine pain specialist, like those at NJ Spine & Orthopedic, can help you fully assess the benefits and risks of this procedure.

What Is Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a common procedure performed in an outpatient setting to treat pain in the upper back, neck, and shoulder. It’s often referred to as cervical rhizotomy or cervical facet thermal coagulation. 

The main benefits of this procedure are its ability to accurately target a pain area and its success as a pain treatment modality. In addition, cervical radiofrequency ablation is considered a safe treatment with very few reported complications, primarily because the pain specialist can stimulate a certain area prior to initiating ablation. This prevents them from ablating the wrong nerves.

You may experience some initial nerve irritation for a few days after your cervical radiofrequency ablation procedure. To help minimize this irritation, the doctor will likely prescribe you steroids. 

You should begin noticing an improvement in pain within three to six weeks. If your pain doesn’t improve, it could be an indication that this procedure isn’t effective in relieving your neck pain.

What Does Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation Treat?

Cervical radiofrequency ablation is often used to treat chronic headaches and neck pain due to cervical spine changes. Your cervical spine is the topmost part of your spine that supports your neck and head. Changes to the various structures around and in the vertebrae can cause a certain type of headache known as a cervicogenic headache. 

It can be hard for doctors to diagnose cervicogenic headaches. Major symptoms include:

  • Poor range of motion in the neck
  • Pain, typically on one side of the head
  • Head pain that becomes worse when the doctor presses the impacted side of the neck
  • Pain that doesn’t respond to traditional medications for headaches
  • Pain that radiates down the arm, shoulder, or neck

The pain specialist may also perform a cervical block (special nerve block). If your headache improves with this cervical block, then it’s likely that you are experiencing a cervicogenic headache.

Cervical radiofrequency ablation isn’t the standard first-line treatment option for these headaches. Pain specialists instead often recommend that their patients first take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If they don’t experience any improvement with these, then the doctor might prescribe medications. Anesthetic nerve blocks and physical therapy may also help. The doctor may recommend cervical radiofrequency ablation if these treatments aren’t effective.

Call the Pain Specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic to Learn About Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation

The experienced pain specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic understand the inconvenience and stress of living with pain and are excited to offer cervical radiofrequency ablation as a treatment option. We are dedicated to reducing or eliminating your pain and helping to improve your quality of life. Our Concierge Team is here to make your treatment process easier as well.

If you believe you may be a good candidate for cervical radiofrequency ablation for your headaches, neck pain, or other types of cervical spine pain, call us at (866) 553-0612 or fill out our online form to schedule your initial consultation.

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