The untimely death of Michael Jackson has brought the issue of pain medication addiction to the forefront of American media recently. The good news for people suffering with pain is that there are several non-addictive alternatives to pain relief.
One of those options is called radiofrequency thermocoagulation therapy. Used to treat pain caused from a variety of conditions, one of the most common types of pain treated with this procedure is neck or back pain from facet arthrosis.
"This type of pain can really alter a person's overall health," says Richard Park, MD, a physician with Southeast Pain Care. "Because they're mobility is often affected, it's hard for them to lead the same kind of day-to-day life they had before the pain."
The facet joints are in the back part of the spine. When arthritis sets in, cartilage in the joints of the spine break down, creating friction, which causes pain. Patients often lose range of motion and get stiff as the back pain increases.
Through a series of tests, physicians can assess where the pain is coming from and decide if radiofrequency is a good option.
Radiofrequency is a procedure that prevents the transmission of pain signals from the back to the brain. The radiofrequency current heats up a small section of nerve tissue to cause a long-lasting interruption in pain signals and reduce pain in that area.
"Because the patient is pain free for months after the procedure, it's often used to help patients get into physical therapy to improve function and strength," Dr. Park adds.
During the procedure, the physician inserts an instrument under the skin that is used to heat the surrounding tissue. Using an X-ray, the physician then inserts a needle to the target area. A microelectrode is inserted through that needle to begin the stimulation process directly on the target. Physicians talk patients through a series of questions to help ensure the process is working, and then a small radiofrequency current travels through the electrode to eliminate the pain pathway.
Results typically last from three to nine months. Because it's non-narcotic, the procedure can be done as often as a patient needs it.
"This procedure can change lives," Dr. Park reiterates. "People can get back to life very quickly."
SOURCE Southeast Pain Care