The procedure involves placing a electrode, via a small needle, through the anesthetized skin to rest parallel to the target nerve under x-ray guidance. A group of muscles called the mulitifidus muscle is stimulated, causing a mild contracting sensation at the target site. Painless muscle contraction and fluoroscopic guidance is used to confirm proper placement of the electrode.
Once confirmed, the nerve is anesthetized, and a radiofrequency lesion is performed. This stops the nerve from sending pain signals from the joint to the brain.
Since the joint's role is to limit motion by anatomical barriers, the radiofrequency treatment does not stop the joint from protecting the spine or potential harm by movement without pain signals. Pain relief is usually appreciated within 6 weeks in the majority of the patients.
The duration of effectiveness is 6 months to 2 years in the general population. The majority of patients appreciate pain relief lasting 1 year. With careful selection of patients, 60% of patients can expect at least 90% reduction in pain lasting 12 months.
Neck and back pain can be caused by multiple pain sources. The greater the role one specific pain source is, the better response to a specific therapy can be expected. Patients benefit greatly, and experience the best outcomes when receiving treatment in a practice capable using multiple modalities to treat the different sources of pain.