Nerve ablation for back pain is a procedure in which a radio wave produces an electric current that heats up a small area of nerves to decrease the amount of pain signals, according to WebMD. It is used on patients with degenerative disks caused by arthritis.
Results from radio frequency ablation, or RFA, vary, WebMD states. Approximately 70 percent of patients report some pain relief. The relief lasts typically six to 12 months, but some patients report that it has lasted for years.
Side effects of radio frequency ablation include discomfort, bruising and swelling at the treatment site, WebMD explains. It usually goes away after a few days. There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the site.
The procedure typically starts with preparing the patient with a mild intravenous sedative and a medication to numb the area at the treatment site, WebMD says. The doctor guides a needle to the area in which the patient is experiencing pain and inserts a micro-electrode that creates the radio waves.
The doctor often asks the patient if he can feel a tingling sensation to determine if the micro-electrode is in the right spot, WebMD states. After the appropriate site has been determined, the treatment starts. Patients typically feel nothing during the process.