If you’re suffering from chronic pain, chances are good you have looked at many different options for relief. One of the important parts of discussing potential pain-relieving procedures is making sure you understand what side effects might occur. Radiofrequency ablation is generally considered a safe procedure for managing pain, but if you are considering it these are 11 radiofrequency ablation side effects to be aware of (and what to do about them).

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a chronic pain therapy first discovered in 1931 as a treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia is a pain condition in which facial nerves send severe jolts of pain across the face and down the sides of the neck. Radiofrequency ablation delivers an electrical current into these nerves transmitting pain signals to the brain. This electrical pulse disrupts pain signals and can help relieve chronic pain.

These days, radiofrequency ablation is often associated with the treatment of chronic pain in and around the spine.

The 33 vertebrae of the spine are connected on both sides with facet joints that join the vertebrae. Together with the intervertebral discs, these facet joints aid in flexibility and movement of the vertebrae, gliding seamlessly in multiple directions. However, the facet joints and their function in the spine are vulnerable to injury, tissue damage, and inflammation. The most common condition treated by radiofrequency ablation is lower back facet joint pain where the medial branch nerves are located.

Radiofrequency ablation can also treat the following conditions:

  • Arthritis pain
  • Other types of lower back pain unrelated to the facet joint
  • Sacroiliac joint pain
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Bone, lung, liver, and kidney tumors
  • Varicose veins and venous insufficiency
  • Neck pain

11 Radiofrequency Ablation Side Effects (And How To Avoid Them) | PainDoctor.com

How does radiofrequency ablation work?

There are two types of radiofrequency ablation:

  • Continuous radiofrequency
  • Pulsed radiofrequency

As their names suggest, continuous radiofrequency ablation delivers a mild electrical signal continuously, and a pulsed radiofrequency ablation sends intermittent pulses to the affected nerves.

For continuous radiofrequency ablation, the electrical current applied is gradually increased to a temperature of between 50° and 80°C (122°