Radiofrequency Neurotomy Follow-up

During the one to four days following the procedure, the area treated - the patient's neck or back - will usually be sore. This pain is usually caused by muscle spasms and irritability while the targeted nerves are dying from the heat lesion. This process of the nerves dying usually takes about 7 - 14 days.

Radiofrequency Neurotomy (Ablation) Side Effects

There are several potential side effects following a radiofrequency (ablation) procedure, including:

  • Depending on the area treated, patients might develop a superficial burning pain with hypersensitivity, similar to a sunburn feeling, over the treated area that lasts for 1 - 2 weeks
  • Following this superficial pain, some patients might also experience a light numbness of the skin over the same area
  • The physician may give medicine to the patient to treat the expected soreness, and the physician may also instruct the patient on how to apply ice (or heat or warm towels) to the sore area to alleviate discomfort
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  • On the day after the procedure, the patient may cautiously return to regular activities
  • Patients usually will want to rest for several days before returning to normal activities, although there are not any technical restrictions. Patients are allowed to engage in normal activity, but should let pain levels be their guide for the first few days
  • Since many patients have been de-conditioned over many months or years as a result of their pain, their physicians might prescribe a guided physical therapy regimen to allow them to increase their strength and activity tolerance in a safe manner.

Expectations for Pain Relief

Full pain relief will typically occur within 2 to 3 weeks after the procedure, once the nerves have completely died. On occasion, the back or neck may feel odd or slightly weak for several weeks after the procedure.

The nerves will eventually grow back (regenerate), but the patient's pain may or may not recur. If the pain does recur, a second radiofrequency neurotomy can be performed, and similar results will usually be achieved. Some patients will not have a recurrence of pain.

Written by Ray M. Baker, MD