Denervation, also called radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a common treatment for joint pain. Similar to when a dentist performs a root canal, once we know the reasons for the pain we can mitigate it while other therapies have time to take effect. ARO offers this treatment option as part of their practice to help mitigate nerve pain in the knee, hip and shoulder joints. Denervation will not be recommended for every patient however, we encourage you to ask about it during your consultation if you feel you would be interested in learning more about this treatment.
What is Denervation?
Denervation is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses radiofrequency ablation to interrupt the pain signals from the nerves that send pain signals from your joints to your brain. Testing the nerves can help a doctor determine which nerves are causing pain so that they can be treated with RFA.
Damage to the joints can be caused by everyday wear and tear, aging, trauma, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. The damaged joints can press on nearby nerves, causing pain. Denervation is recommended when medication and physical therapy fail to provide relief.
Along with being a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, denervation is able to relieve pain and discomfort that hasn’t been resolved using other methods.
Another benefit of denervation is that patients are able to resume their normal activities immediately after treatment with no disruption to their schedules.
You will be lying on your back during the denervation procedure. The doctor will insert a small needle into the area where you’ve been experiencing pain. Using an X-ray to guide the needle, a microelectrode is inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process. Once the placement is verified, a small radiofrequency current travels through the electrode to the nerve branch that has been targeted to be blocked.
RFA treats the pain associated with damaged facet joints in your back and neck, as well as your knee, shoulder and hip joints. Damaged joints can be the result of everyday wear and aging, trauma and arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Symptoms that can be treated by denervation can include:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Arm and leg pain that radiates from the back
- Knee pain
- Hip pain
- Shoulder pain
There is little preparation required specifically for denervation, however this treatment will be performed at the same time as your arthroscopy and regenerative medicine treatment. You will be provided with all preparation instructions needed prior to your surgery.
You will be moved to a recovery room for rest after the denervation procedure and able to go home when you feel ready. Some tenderness at the needle sites is normal and usually resolves within two days.
Once at home, using an ice pack on the injection sites can help to relieve discomfort, if any. You will need to avoid baths for two days, but may take a shower in 24 hours, depending on what other procedures you had.
What if radiofrequency ablation doesn’t work?
Radiofrequency ablation always works, but the results may vary for each individual. If there is still pain or discomfort after the procedure, most likely it’s coming from the muscles and ligaments around the joint which have grown atrophy over time. Which is why we help patients with strengthening and stretching exercises to help rehab those muscles and ligaments.