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Burning pain after Radio Frequency Ablation to Neck (RFA)

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
edited 01/17/2016 - 2:26 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I had extreme neck pain (herniated and degenerative discs) that also lead to severe headaches. After steriod injections were not successful I had the RFA procedure (nearly 2 weeks ago). My headaches are gone (which is wonderful) but there is still some neck and shoulder pain.

The pain/side affects include numbness, skin sensitivity and an uncomfortable burning sensation in my neck and shoulders. The skin sensitivity runs through out my neck, shoulders and even under my arms. Wearing a necklace against my skin is unbearable. Even the collars and the seams of shirts irritates my skin. It reminds me of the feeling that I had with shingles, minus the rash.

Has anyone else experienced this with an RFA procedure? If so, did it last or eventually go away? Is there anything that can be done to help with these post treatment issues?


  • Sorry about your pain. It has been 3 weeks since my RFA in the spine.Every day seems to get a little worse.Am seeing my Dr. tomorrow and hope he has some amswers. Good Luck !
  • I had Rf on my c3 c4 c5 and c6 6 days ago and am feeling worse everyday, I had my neck done 19 months ago and it was about 3 months or more before I started feeling better. I have odd nerve like burning which is getting worse the last 2 days, I was just looking for someone that can relate to this odd pain ~X(
  • Hi,

    I had mine done in 4 places in my neck 3/08. I felt like I had a zillion sunburns under my skin in areas. Each week the sunburn sensation lessened. It took 6- 8 weeks for it to go away, but the procedure took 75-80% of my pain area away. It took away all of my neck & trap pain to my shoulder. The only place it didn't work was in my shoulder blade. That pain remained at a 9.5ish. I was very happy with that result, but it only lasted 2-3 months. I went to pain mgt. dr to have it repeated, & I was shocked that they refused. My pain mgt. dr doesn't consider the procedure a success unless it lasts at least six months. I wish they would try it again, but the dr said that the risks outweighed the benefits in terms of time for me. I am now on a pain meds. mgt program.

    Hang in there. I hope that your burning sensation lessens, and I hope that you get great & lasting pain relief!!

    You can PM me if you have any questions.

  • This is all very interesting to me, as RFA is a treatment that my pain Dr. recommends instead of steroid injections.
    Reading these posts, and others elsewhere, makes me very wary of this procedure.
    Why does it hurt so much for so long afterwards?
    Were you warned that this might happen?
  • Peter B said:
    This is all very interesting to me, as RFA is a treatment that my pain Dr. recommends instead of steroid injections.

    Reading these posts, and others elsewhere, makes me very wary of this procedure.
    Why does it hurt so much for so long afterwards?
    Were you warned that this might happen?
    the reason it hurts is because the nerve ending has been burned off,and it takes a while for the nerve to die,i had mine done in 2008,it did work for my nerve pain L-5 S-1,my pain doctor did tell me it would hurt afterwards, and he gave me extra pain meds...
  • I haven;t been on the site for a while. Glad I found the post. I'm scheduled for RFA on May 14. I am so tired of back problems. My Doc says it has to be repeated every 3 months and you hurt worse for the month after the procedure. So,,I'm doing this to possibly have 2 good months?

  • Hey Tom,

    I hope your procedure goes well. I am a second timer, My first RF procedure was July of 2007 and the results lasted for about a year. The recovery was somewhat painful, tightness at the injection site and severe burning, The Dr.s call it a "BURNING SENSATION". I strongly disagree but that was the worst part. I am currently at 5 weeks after my 2nd RF and I am in Physical therapy and doing OK. So good luck and I will be interested to hear how you are doing!
    Take Care
  • I'm supposed to get this Radio Frequence Denervation procedure done and reading the above notes makes me quite fearful to have it. Just about everyone above has had significant discomfort and for some not much pain relief at all. It makes me wonder, "should I go ahead?" Please let me know what you think. Thanks
  • When the procedure was done on my cervical neck (3) different times, there was always the after effects of having someone messing in that area. It only makes sense - though it is not invasive, the muscles, nerves and so on are a little pissed off. At least that is what the doctors told me.

    I had 2 different doc perform the same procedure and what a difference in pain after wards. The first doc had me lay on my side and it took nearly an hour - my whole body hurt from holding that position for so long and the procedure itself gave me pain. The second doc had me lay on my stomach and it took less time - Thus the pain afterwards was much less.

    Lastly, though it didn't solve my problems, it did give me some relief of pain and gave me much more ROM of my neck. I still continued to have shoulder and sternum/thoracic pain. Now 1 year later, i'd give anything for the slight improvement....but the docs have moved on with other attempts to help me and now it is time for the nuerosurgeron.

    Make you own dicision, but you will never know if it will help YOU or not until you try.

    I even tried the Botox for my neck - now that is one procedure I would never repeat.

    good luck - pm anytime
  • d the right side of my neck on the 15th I was told the radio frequency that the pain would get a little worse than I have had but it seems to feel a little better. The only problem I have is that the back of my neck is numb. I am having the other side done on Wednesday I hope this one is better. I am hoping everything goes well since they have suggested that my back I want to get off all pain medication. Any suggestions

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  • /:)
    Well, it hasn't been long since my procedure myself, and I have the same thing pretty much you all have causing pain, herniated disks, stenosis,tendonitis, fibromyalgia, even apparently some spinal fluid leaking from one of the herniated cervical disks. The alternative is a lot scarier procedure to help pain, from what I've been told. I hear they go in from the front, where you know...the carotid artery area is!!! No thank you! But it could be bogus. Anyway, I had two sort of successful steroid injections on left side c-1 - c-6 I think, and one procedure on the right side. My migraines, arm pain, back, neck blah blah has been unbearable, so injections were inevitable since I'm on everything imaginable. So now, brings me to the recent RFA. Yes, burning, yes tenderness, aching in upper areas where shots were, and I was awake, cried like a baby and kicked the rails several times, but guess what? I used to be an ER "Frequent Flier" (joking, like airport talk hehe) but since, I rather take this less burning, temporary pain, or if not temp, is better than 12 out of 10 pain level before. You know the pictures they show to describe your pain? Well, they didn't have the one where the person is banging there head against the wall to knock themself out (for pity's sake)because that's how I felt before! I know its short time now since, but hey, no ER yet! A record for me! I say if you relate to me, almost renaming yourself to "Migraine" "Sciatica" or "Pain Always Smith, instead of your own name, then try it! But see, I've had pain my whole life and it is the lesser of evils of operations for me too. I have to do a round of steroids on the right then the RFA too, oh well. But better than before, let me tell you. Good Luck to you all!
  • 8> I sure hope I didn't scare you off. But anyway, it has been a relief, and I forgot to say, at least according to my doctor that if the steroid injections are not successful, the RFA is unlikely to help much, but maybe they were reaching to help in any way possible. You see, I've been on every prevention for migraines, and on different meds that I rather not be, and still in great pain. The steroid injections did help, so the right side is getting that first, and I'm glad. (I have allergies to cig. smoke so that made my treatment not last very long last time. Just to let you know, a surgeon told another patient in preop that if you smoke, your recovery, healing time is slower, just to let you know. After this RFA treatment I was given a topical cream called PENNSAID (diclofenac sodium 16.05 mg. and it does help for the burning pain. So ask for it. It's expensive and I was given samples. They give them out because of that, and I doubt I'll use it all. its watery, a tiny bit soaks in. I wasn't using it, then did, and it made a difference. I was trying to not be so needing stuff, but it did help swelling and burning. (Is still) Remember I just had it done, and no ER....that's a Hell of a lot better then going under the knife. (I had a 9 out of 10 migraine lack of sleep going in also, so wa a baby. I know i could've handled it better if not already swollen. So don't freak about me kicking the rails. I got "over twilighted" because I was already sick, and I got lots of relief after. And, yes,I will do it on the right side soon even with this.
  • I had it for my back it takes about 2 weeks to kick in i still feel burning, but every day it get minimal, i love my pm doc and i trust him, this procedure is to last from 3-5 year"s but it does take time to work !!good luck to all
  • After an ACDR C5-C7 in June 2009, half a dozen epidural facet and trigger point injections both before and after the surgery I had to try it. I have the sensations you described above but not too bad. Actually about the same as my pain the last 4 years, just different. My pain DR said I can do anything I want physically as long as I can tolerate it. My Neuro surgeon said that if this works for a period of time he might consider another (higher) fusion for a permanent fix. And around and around and around we go !
  • Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure that creates a nerve injury produces local heat. When a disability is placed over a nerve pain, pain signals are suspended and the perception of pain by the brain decreased.


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    Post Edited by Moderator haglandc
  • had a radio frequency did on c spine. having alot of burning in the back of head area. anyone have the same problem. feels like head is on fire.
  • So, I want to say this with a ton of emphasis -- that these posts are so incredibly valuable. They may sound scary or even negative, but I take them as being 100% HONEST. For people like me who are told by their doctor (with a reassuring smile on his face) that this might help, I have now have the benefit of the experience of others to help me better contemplate whether the potential benefits are worth the potential side effects.

    I am so happy that I came across this thread!

  • Update on my RFA. 4 days after the procedure the pain went WAY up. The highest it has ever been in the 4 years I have treated for this pain. As recent as 1 week ago it was intolerable. The DR's PA said it would go down in 2 weeks after the procedure. Unfortunately my visit with her was 3 weeks post operative !

    However yesterday (4 weeks and two days since my RFA) the increased pain is just now starting to drop . I'll keep you posted.
  • I do feel that was the only thing that could help me remotely, and have the right side to do. I keep getting migraines on that side now, which move to the left, and believe it or not, there is still a large area in my head, where there is horrible pain with acute migraines, as well as neck. One area in particular in my neck on the side is awful still, but...my left arm isn't hurting, shooting pain down and I can be on the computer, make my music, unlike before. The burning after opsite area pain, is minimal now, over 2 months I think, and it is a little tender while brushing my hair. But see...I do see some areas of great relief! Yet I'm still in great pain, so they need to do the other side, maybe a second. A process, and time. I joke that my nerves are growing back, or rejuvenating, repairing, I had taken the supposed Neurontin for nerve pain renoun for regenerating nerve growth, repair! pfff!!! Instead it made me get tremmors on maninly one hand and I couldn't type, plus other stuff. Steroid injections weren't enough, but helped for a little while, and I think I have to do that before I can get the right side done, according to sources at my doctors. Oh, but my doctor had to move practice, so I'm stuck. I don't know why< what, and everything at the office is chaotic in his absence, but he was the only one near who could do it, and had offered. I know healing is bad, but believe me, without the surgery, when I look back, the pain was much more wide spread, relentless, and never was I below a 6 out of ten, now I have some 2s or 3 days. So I myself, am trying to get it, knowing I'll cry like a little child in surgery awake, "twighlighted" pfft!!! It's the only option for me in 47 years of living experience, much of it in pain having fallen as a child. Okay, so my two sense, plus there is a topical cream which I haven't needed for a while with Diclofenac, which helps. It does. It's topical and runny, but soaks in. Ask for a sample because it's expensive. I said that before, but can't help but say it again, since many people have said the burning pain. Mine is very little now, none that I can tell unless I brush my hair, and it's minimal. I'd be patient, remember the past horridness, and I bet you'll aggree, and weigh the benefits vrs risks. I'd rather a month or two of sunburn-iness than always ER chances, and wide range pain. okay, take care...I'll get back to you, and yes, I still get sick, so I know (for myself) both sides need it to work, and am trying. ;)
  • "My two sense!" I mean two cents, but I re-read the letter, and I think I describe my pain worse on that side than it really is. I'd say a quarter's size area of where a shooting pain is coming in, yes is hard, kind of difuses, so spreads out some, but before I'd have all my facial nerves, the trigeminal nerves, the cervical nerves, muscles, all of them top to deep inside, and in shoulder, arm, and it would stay swollen for days! There are so many layers of nerves and muscles, and my relief is worth the operation discomfort for a while. It makes you somewhat relieved if not a lot. I have kind of a lot of damage, so I'm "complicated" as they said. I wouldn't be able to sit here now this long and write all this stuff. It's a little sore now, but used to be awful, 5 mins, and I had to get off the computer! I couldn't try anything involving those nerves, and always had compresses on me, now not so much. There, now, my 2 cents. I hope it helps someone here. Not really any sunburn, unless aggrivated, and only a tiny bit after a couple months ago, maybe 3. I might need a second op on that same side, and I will if I can, because I know it'll help. Take care.
  • I am new to the forum but very thankful to be able to read about others experiences with RFA. I had the procedure done 10 days ago on the nerves in C5 and C6, both sides, and am having terrible side effects. Besides the burning and soreness in my neck, when I try to walk I feel numbness all over my head, in my back and legs, and terrible neck pain afterwards. I am trying to decide if I just need to rest longer before trying to go out and walk or if something is wrong. Has anyone experienced these symptoms?
  • my doc gave me 12 days to decide if i want to try RFA on my c5 through c7 right side only. he had given me medial branch blocks twice at about a month apart. the first time was with 1% lidocaine and it was effective in the c5-c7 area for 24 hours but made c1-c4 and the rest of my spine issues intensify. the second time was with 2% lidocaine and it was not effective in the c5-c7 area at all. i had to take pain medication about 1-2 hours after the procedure!

    so my husband and i are trying to decide if i should even give this a try, and after reading all the possible side effects vs possible benefits from the information given to me by my doctor and this forum i just ran across today, i am not sure what to do! cost is another dealbreaker. if anyone has no problem stating their out of pocket cost or how much their insurance covered it please let me know asap. i would very much appreciate it! :)

    thank you.
  • I had the first of the test with 1% lidocaine to see if the RFA is for me on Wednesday. There was no change in my pain directly after the procedure and so now they are going to do the steroid shot in my neck.
    So hopefully that will give me more relief.
  • Dear Sufferers:

    I am since 11/11/08 (car accident) in severe cervical-head-and shoulder pains. Had 4 RFA procedues and can only say that it "depends of the skills of the doctor" if the procedure is successful. I had 3 wonderful ones, then the doctor moved away. Now I have a new Neurologist, I am tampted to say, "Go back to the medical school" I had 2 injections and 1 RFA with the new one and absolutely nothing, maybe more pain. He scheduled me for a steroid injection, but I canceled, went to another, and asked for a Botox injection. My neighbor has semilar pains, also from a car accident, and swears about Botox injections. Thus, I will try my first one soon. Again, as you all can read, the success rate differs with all of us, that means that the outcome of your procedure is in the hands of the provider.
  • Im 31 and suffer from chronic pain that resulted from a martial arts injury three years ago.Ive had RFA 5 separate times. It has been the same pretty much every time: 6 weeks burning and agitated and spasming muscles in my neck. After that however, I am %80 pain free for approximately a year at a time. I have to have it from C-7 to my third occipital on the left and right side. My doctor wont do each side at the same time so the whole thing from start to finish lasts 12 weeks. Despite the increased pain for 3 months, it is worth the treatment.
  • .....Another concern is that by damaging nerves, pain will be caused rather than relieved. There is a small chance (less than 5%) that the pain will worsen after the procedure. This is believed to be from increased irritation of a nerve that was only partially damaged, not completely destroyed. This can be treated with medication and usually goes away in several months. It is less common in the mid and low back than in the neck, and is most common at higher levels of the neck.

    (Mine was C-spine)
  • To all neck sufferers:

    I am now 2 1/2 year in treatment after my car accident and endured every method possible to get pain free (head, neck, shoulder), and nothing helped really. My neighbor in semilar situation advised me to try Botox for pain. My insurance covers it, thus, I gave it a try. Wow, it worked immediately and I felt as if I never had an accident. However.....

    it did NOT last long. Only 7 days. My neighbor told me that with time, it last longer and longer and hers last about 4 months. The injections is 100% pain free, it is a miracle. Although I am now back with pain, the Botox doc said that he can perform it only all 3-4 months. Maybe the time from one Botox to another will last longer in future. It is worth a try.

  • I had 8 RFA's done over three weeks ago and the pain and burning is getting progressively worse. Just to comb my hair is excruciating. It is now spreading to my face and I am about to go crazy from the pain. Is there anybody here who could shed some light as to how long this may last? I am ready to go out of my mind from the pain. Thank you.
  • RobinRRobin Posts: 1,652
    edited 07/09/2012 - 8:37 AM
    Robin said:
    Another concern is that by damaging nerves, pain will be caused rather than relieved. There is a small chance (less than 5%) that the pain will worsen after the procedure. This is believed to be from increased irritation of a nerve that was only partially damaged, not completely destroyed.
    This can be treated with medication and usually goes away in several months. It is less common in the mid and low back than in the neck, and is most common at higher levels of the neck.
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