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radio frequency procedure - lumbar

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Pain Management
Hi all,

If anyone has undergone a radio frequency procedure for facet joint pain, please let me know how it was and what to expect.

I had one two weeks ago and the pain has gotten worse. They say that is to be expected. Please let me know your experience. It would mean so much.


  • Doesn't sound good so far, let us know if it turns out good in case we have the opportunity. Good luck.
  • Hello Lynn
    yes, I had this done on all 5 lumbar levels ear;ier this year. Also known as de-nervation. It is not a very pleasant experience. I had all one side done and then the other a week or so later. And yes, it was quite uncomfortable for a while. Try some Ibuprofen and some ice if it still hurts you.
    This procedure kills the nerves around the facet joints which cab regenerate after a year to 18 months and the pain can return and you may need to repeat the procedure. It is part of the range of procedures to rule out facet joints being the cause of the problem before going on to look at discs as the source. Unfortunately my de-nervation was not successful so had to then have a discogram which confirmed the problem was discs and not facet joints. I had three level surgery done on 22nd April - Charite ADR L3/L4, L4/L5 and ALIF (fusion) at L5/S1.
    Hope your RF works. Take it easy for a while and try to rest as much as you can.
    Let me know if I can answer any other questions about this you might have
  • Hi Bryan,
    Thank you so much for your reply. I am praying that this works even a little. How did your surgery work? Did it help with the pain?
    How long did they tell you it would take to know if the RF worked or not?
    Any input, is appreciated so much.
  • Hello Lynn
    I think is was up to about four weeks before you could tell if it worked or not so you probably have a bit more time to wait. I'm 14 weeks post op now and struggling a bit still. I'm told the surgery has been successful and went as planned. The fusion is healing and the discs were in the right place still (6 weeks ago) but I still have back pain radiating into my legs pretty much as before. Still on meds and trying to reduce. I have another follow up with the surgeon on Friday.
    Good luck with your healing from your RF.
  • I had great success (I think) with the readiofrequency lesioning. Actually, it was the test to see if you would have a good response to the actual procedure. I did really well. BUT, then I was rear-ended. Kinda threw things into a tailspin (no pun intended, really). Talk about a set back. Since then, I've had surgery, more injections, and another test run for the procedure. All with little (if any) success. :(

    I do remember my doc telling me that I would be sore, but that eventually things would work themselves out and I'd feel better. (prior to the accident)

    The ice and ibuprofen are great suggestions. I do hope you find some relief soon!

  • results with rhizotomy! It will take four or more weeks to know if it has worked. The nerves do not die right away and they are angry. Ice and rest will be your best friend for awhile. I have had this done 6 times and it has been a lifesaver for me. It usually lasts about 1 year for me and then the process is repeated. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • I've had three rhizotomies; all three of which were L2 to S1, bilaterally. The third also took in segments of my c-spine and t-spine; I had GREAT results with my lumbar, sacral and c-spine pain, but it irritated the heck out of my t-spine area.

    The first rhizotomy gave me relief as soon as the nerves settled down after the surgery (that's an awful experience, but it was fairly short-lived, at least!), but the relief only lasted about five or six weeks. The second one lasted a little bit longer, and the third one, which I had last September, gave me several MONTHS of relief, which was awesome. There are people who have up to two years of relief, and others who get NO relief; it's just one of those things.

    I would do it again if I had to, but I'll stay away from the t-spine. Right now I'm getting relief with a new NSAID I'm taking, so I may be able to avoid rhizotomies for a while. Good luck!

  • I hit the "post" button twice and ended up with two of the same responses! I just wiped out the second one and replaced it with this one. :D
  • Thank you so much for your comments they have helped me so much. I am more confindent now tha tthis is going to work.
    I was so afraid, now I know what to expect more. I appreciate any comments so much. Please keep them coming.
  • hi. I had the rhizotomy this past wednesday, july 30. Im still in alot of pain. Very sore and stiff. No one told me this would take weeks or months for results. And i wasn't told the nerves don't die right away and are angry. I think mine are ubber furious!!!

    If anyone could give me some encouragement, i would love you for it.

    Blessings, Gloria
  • Hi.

    I had this procedure done yesterday ... it is not a comfortable procedure to go through as you must be awake and alert so that you can tell the doctor exactly what you are feeling when you feel it. This is an uncomfortable procedure, which I knew going into it. :''(

    Today, my back is sore from the injection site, but other than that, I only have a pain in my calf (like growing pains). I haven't taken any painkillers (not even Advil or the like) and the ice definitely helps. The worst part about this is the fact that I will have to go through this again in about a week or so ... they have to do the other side. Well, at least I know what to expect. Hopefully I will be pain-free! =D> I have a great doctor if anyone needs a recommendation on Long Island!
  • I'm going for the first part on Monday to see if this procedure will work.Iam really scared.Will it hurt?
  • work as well if you are sedated either. The best results are obtained when you are awake so that you can tell the doc when he hits the nerve that is causing your pain. If you are asleep he is really guessing on which one to burn.
    Annies mom, do not be afraid. It will hurt for a matter of seconds and then they numb and burn it. If you get relief as good as I did that lasted 1 year it will be well worth that few seconds of pain. just remember to place ice 20 minutes on and 20 minutes on to the site and it should help alot. Hopefully your doc will send you home with sufficient pain meds. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • It wont hurt if you are sedated....I wasnt completely sedated..
  • I had a radio frequency done in July and it is now september. Since I had it done, I have the most excrutiating back pains in the morning when I first wake up. I have to squirm and slide out of bed because it hurts SO much, to get dressed is painful, to use the toilet, I have to lower myself bracing the sink and toilet paper roll. After about two hours, taking morphine and a lidoderm patch, I can function fine with pain still present but not as bad. I wish I had never had this done!

    I have DDD, 2 herneated discs and no disc space between L5 S1. My facet joints are non existant anymore, they grind on eachother. My x-ray is one big cloud in that area.

    I'm only 28 years old and have been dealing with this back pain for about 10 years. It started out as flare ups once or twice a year and now it is chronic and severe. I'm a SSG in the Army. Has anybody had these same problems and have had surgery for it? I'm scared to have surgery for risk of becoming paralyzed.
  • I had it done 2 months ago and am still "burning". From about L2 to below my buttocks and hips still burn. They did L1 through L4. It didn't help me at all. It even hurts to have clothes on touching my body in those areas.

    Since that time, I've had L2 disc replacement and fusion with L3. So far the burning from the radio frequency is worse than the fusion!

    John 3:16

  • I had a radio frequency procedure a year ago June that resulted in constant ambient or white noise in my head. Has anyone experienced a similar side effect? If so, does it or did it go away? Thanks for the assistance.
  • I had to have two nerve blocks done before a rhizotomy would be considered; they were both done while I was awake, under low dose x-ray. The doc "marked" where he injected, and after two successful blocks, he knew where to go for the rhizotomies.

    My NS does the rhizotomies under a general anaesthetic because the troubleshooting has already been done with the nerve blocks, so he gets a little more "aggressive", for lack of a better word, when he does the rhizotomy, and also does SI joint injections while I'm out.


  • langston, hope you are doing better at this point, would love to hear an update. For others, my RF wasn't bad and I did have a very mild sedation. They did left side L3-L4-L5 and placed all three probes before starting the procedure. For each probe I had to tell them when I could feel them stimulating the nerve. Then they loaded up that area with novocaine and turned up the heat. The second and then the third both followed in the same manner. The sensations were not painful, in fact each was different, weird! The actual cauterization of the nerves did not hurt at all. As a matter of fact, the buff cap they gave me for the sedation was probably the most painful part of the whole ordeal. I'm post-op 2 weeks now, just had a follow up doc visit. They said to expect 1-2 weeks for my back to quit "complaining" about having the procedure itself done and 4-6 weeks more for the nerves to actually die off and to feel relief. My pain is not much worse than when I started and I never developed the muscle spasms they said could develop. I don't take the pain meds at work so I load up on Ibuprofen on those days and then take the pain meds when I get home. I've already started some PT too.
  • Lynn, Yesterday I had the above procedure accomplished at L4. My doctor performs this is a two step fashion so I hesitate to comment until the next procedure is completed. Step One was done with sedation, I had different sensations that when steroial injections were done. I did have pain yesterday which I treated with Lortab. Today, I feel better but it is still early in the day.

    Step Two is scheduled for November 6. I will let you know how it goes. But, if there is a possibility I could acquire a pain-free year, I'm all for it!!!!! (As I am sure you are too)

  • I was advised that I need a Laminectomy and a Discectomy .I am looking for a good Long Island Neurosurgeon
  • Hi I am new here. I have lumbar facet syndrome and have gone though the steroid injections that worked for about 5 days and then went through the rhizotomy bilateral 3 levels. I was completely awake and not sedated at all. Relax..it was uncomfortable but doable. I am at the point where I am wondering whether it has worked or is working or not. I have read that it can take 4-6 weeks but is hard to be upbeat when the pain is still at a 4-5/10. Last week I was able to move better and the pain changed...The post rhizotomy pain was pretty tough..ice will be your best friend. I did not take any narcotics by probably should have. Plan to have 2 down days to manage the pain after. Sending positive thoughts to all.
  • I have had neck pain for almost 20 years. It gets worse with time. I had the RF procedure done 3 weeks ago. Pain is worse. It feels like a bad sunburn on top of the already pain. I have been sick to my stomach since the procedure. Has anyone else had the same side effects? and does it get better? :-(
  • I had L/3-4-5 Riodo freq done on 20th. Dr. promised to put me to sleep, due to my damaged nerves and sensetivity..HE DID NOT. I weigh 113, the nurse, 2x's my size layed across me as I screamed and cryed and pleaded for him to stop...The procedure may have worked..if I had not been flopping around like a fish. We will never know. Today is the first day, I am not crying..I still shreik when I move..I still cannot walk unassisted, I am still bed bound. I wear a 100mcg fentenyl patch, and have for years, as my pain has increased, so has the mcg on the patch. I am terrified that this may be perminant damage..The Dr wanted to see me today, I was wheeled in and he was quite jolly, and wanted to give me "pain meds"..WHAT ABOUT THE DAMAGE?? I am terrified, that this is perminant..I need a good Ortho Surgeon...I am scared, and in terrible pain.Laurie
  • Oh Dear Lord..You are so Blessed, to have a great Dr...My Dr..put a little in my veins..His nurse layed across me, he did both sides L 3-4-5 ..no numbing anything..I screamed, begged, pleaded, and he continued with the procedure. That was the 20th, I still cannot move, still scream out when I move. I see no hope, nothing good, it was anything but a pleasant procedure...You are one of the LUCKY FEW.. I wish I had your Doctor, I wish and pray that I am not perminately crippled...I was all over the table, how could he know where he was putting the probe??.PRAY FOR ME
  • I am a week and a half post-op from my left side RFA to 3 nerves in lower back. After the first week I called my Doc back and asked if I should still be in such terrible pain. She assured me that was normal because the nerves are "very angry" but did prescribe low dose of Lyrica twice daily.
    I've been on the Lyrica for 5 days now. I don't know if it's the Lyrica helping or just time from the procedure but my pain level has dropped and is bearable.
    I go back in on Friday for the right side and am hoping this one isn't as bad as the first. I was given Versed and Fentanyl but remember everything and it was very painful. I was told they did my bad side first.
    I have noticed that my left side very low back and up on the top of my bum itches terribly since having the RFA...anybody else experience that?
  • I had one 3 weeks ago. The first week was bad, I actually used my pain pills by the 'days supply' day. So I was out at 10 days. I called for a refill and they didn't get back to me for 2 days and when they did, they pumped my dosage and number of pills DOWN.

    Went from giving me 50 7.5 norco every 4-6 to 30 5.0 norco every 6 hours. One 5.0 norco doesn't do a thing for me. I've been on that dosage for 3 months.

    I've been out since Monday and the pain is unbearable. Tomorrow is the day the script is SUPPOSED to run out, but I don't want to call and deal with attitude. I see him on Tuesday.

    I literally did nothing my last days off.
  • DDub, did you have both sides done at once? I guess I don't understand why these PM docs are reducing patients pain meds or not filling them! I understand they think that this RFA should help but I was told by my PM Doc that it is not a cure all, it's simply to help with everyday living of normal activity like getting up in the morning or driving, ect.
    I haven't had to talk to my PM doc about pain meds yet, I still have some from my PCP that I got filled just before I starting seeing my new doc.
    I hope you get some relief from the pain before going back to see him!
  • I am not seeing a PM, so I think that is the problem. My meds are all through my surgeon. I am going to request a referral to a PM doctor when I see him on tuesday.

    I am getting by on ice, heat, and my TENS alone.

    And yes, I had both sides done.
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