The tailbone, or coccyx, is a triangular-shaped bone consisting of three to five sections located in the last part of the spine. Trauma or direct injury is the most common cause of a bruised or broken tailbone. Because of its location in the spine, the coccyx is especially susceptible to injury during a difficult childbirth.
Most people recover without surgery and instead use remedies such as reducing sitting time, taking ibuprofen, or cortisone injections to relieve pain and swelling, among other therapies. If the surgical removal of the tailbone is not an option, radiofrequency can be a safe and effective way to burn the nerves that cause tailbone pain. This procedure is called an impar ablation. NJ Spine & Orthopedic can help you answer any questions you may have about your coccyx pain.
Impar ablation, or radiofrequency ablation (RFA), is a non-surgical method that employs radiofrequency waves to disrupt pain signals to the brain. RFA is typically used to treat pain from the facet joints that contribute to chronic pain in the lower back, neck, and sacroiliac joints. Facet joints are tiny joints at the base of the spine connected to two medial branch nerves, which send pain signals to the brain and spine from the affected joints.
RFA is recommended for conditions affecting the lower back, joints, or neck that haven’t responded successfully to other pain management interventions. Heat is used in radiofrequency ablation to destroy tissue and provide pain relief by sending radio waves through an RFA needle that passes current to the affected area. The process effectively blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
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Overall, an impar ablation procedure aims to postpone or avoid surgery altogether. Radiofrequency ablation is employed to stop or alleviate pain, enhance joint functionality, and reduce the pain medication patients rely on. Doctors also use RFA to treat facial pain from chronic migraine, pelvic pain caused by ovarian cancer, and stomach pain from pancreatic cancer.
In general, nerve ablation refers to the deliberate destruction of nerves. In case a patient continues to experience coccyx pain, the goal is to prevent nerves from carrying pain signals up to the brain, effectively improving their quality of life. You are a good candidate for nerve or radiotherapy ablation if:
If you are pregnant, have an infection, or have a bleeding problem, you may not be a candidate for radiofrequency ablation. Patients scheduled to receive RFA should have someone to drive them home after the procedure, as they’ll be unable to operate a vehicle for at least 24 hours.
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Before performing an RFA procedure, your doctor will review your medical and medication history regarding your pain. They will conduct a diagnostic block test to determine the source and pain level to help them assess the amount of relief you need. If the diagnostic block does not provide significant relief, RFA may not be beneficial. In case you respond positively to the diagnostic block, you may be a good candidate for RFA as a pain relief treatment.
If you take blood thinners or are on insulin, you may need to temporarily discontinue or adjust your dosages a few days before the procedure. Depending on the surgical site and the number of treatments performed, RFA may take one to two hours. Radiofrequency ablation is minimally invasive and does not require anesthesia.
To help you relax, you may be given a mild sedative, though you’ll be alert, so you can answer your doctor’s questions during the procedure. The doctor will then direct a distinct radiofrequency needle together with the targeted nerves using a guided X-ray called a fluoroscope. A small amount of electrical current will be passed through a probe placed within the needle to the problematic nerve. You may experience a mild warm sensation, brief pain, or a muscle twitch at this point, but your doctor will talk you through what you’ll be feeling.
Once a proper position is determined, more local anesthetic is administered to the area where the RFA will be performed. A radiofrequency current will be passed through the needle to heat the identified part of the pain nerve. At this point, more than one nerve can be treated if need be. You may experience soreness in the treatment site for a few days following the procedure. Although the effectiveness of RFA is unique to each patient, it can last three to twelve months.
Pain relief is the most noticeable effect of an impar ablation. There is also less recovery time and overall improved tailbone functionality. Because pain medications will no longer be required, you should be able to return to regular activities after a few days of rest.
In case you’re unsure about the coccyx pain treatment to pursue, our board-certified specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic can help you decide whether an impar ablation procedure is ideal for you. Our personalized patient care and multidisciplinary approach to pain management solutions set our practice apart. We are here to answer any questions you may have about your pain, procedure, or even your travel plans in order to get to our office. Call us today at (866) 553-0612 or fill out this online contact form to get started on your pain-free journey.
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