Pain is a signal in the nervous system that something may be wrong. As we all know, pain comes in many different shapes and forms, and is generally categorized as acute or chronic pain. A pain that lasts a long time is described as chronic.
When looking at chronic pain management, the goal is to reduce pain in the most noninvasive way possible, and preferably with non-drug treatments. Radiofrequency energy is a way to reduce pain with no surgery. Still, radiofrequency therapy usually involves an invasive procedure. However, a new FDA-cleared pain relief device now utilizes radiofrequency in a way that is non-invasive, painless, and specifically designed for easy and safe self-care.
What is radiofrequency therapy?
RF current is low-energy, high-frequency alternating current that has been used for decades in pain treatment. Most procedures involving radiofrequency are invasive, but there is also a non-invasive, painless RF application for pain relief.
What are radiofrequency procedures?
RF procedure is described as the application of RF electrical signals to neural tissue with RF electrodes inserted into the tissue to reach the site of pain.
This is an invasive procedure, using a needle.
This is usually done with X-ray to monitor the location, as the operator must ensure that it treats the painful nerve and is not too close to any motor nerve. Only after he verifies the needle is in a safe place can he apply the radiofrequency current.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive medical procedure to ablate nerves in order to essentially stop the transmission of pain signals to the brain. It is usually performed in an outpatient setting, by a specialist using anesthetics. It is effective in many cases, offering pain relief.
Continuous RF (CRF)
In CRF, alternating RF current is applied to a target nerve using a needle electrode. The goal is to apply the high-frequency current for sufficient time to raise the temperature until it causes coagulation, or a thermal lesion, in the targeted nerve. Lesions are intended to ‘block’ pain transmission.
In CRF, anesthetic is also injected via the needle electrode before lesioning. Due to the high temperature, CRF usually involves pain and a longer period of discomfort.
If desired effect is achieved, it lasts until the coagulated nerves regenerate.
Pulsed RF (PRF)
In this process, alternating current of RF is delivered by short bursts to a target nerve without producing significant heating, therefore not producing thermal lesions. According to professionals, pulsed RF otherwise affects pain signals to reduce pain, possibly by lesion caused not by heating. Other studies have shown that the strong electromagnetic field it produces without causing thermal lesion may be effective in pain relief. Although the mechanism for the effectiveness of pulsed RF is unclear, it is known that pulsed RF is less painful.
It’s important to note that pulsed RF seems to be ineffective in some conditions, and should not be applied. This makes diagnosis very important.
Radiofrequency neurolysis involves using energy in the radiofrequency range to cause necrosis of specific nerves by radiofrequency current to generate heat and coagulate the target medial branch nerve. This procedure is used for pain relief from pain generated by facet joints due to conditions such as arthritis, degenerative changes or injury.
Note that in other context neurolysis actually refers to chemical ablation, rather than radio waves ablation, for the purpose of pain relief. Chemical ablation is a different procedure, in which the agent may be alcohol, phenol, glycerol or other agent injected into the nervous system to cause reduction of pain signals.
What pain is treated with RF?
RF is used to treat many conditions, such as the following:
Low back pain (such as from lumber facet joints, the sacroiliac joint, the intervertebral discs)
It may also be helpful for other conditions, such as hip joint pain, as well as foot and ankle pain.
Let’s look at two examples:
Radiofrequency ablation knee
Radiofrequency ablation for knee targets the nerves that transmit signals of pain in the knee. The RF ablation for knee is usually performed around the knee, in three places simultaneously. Candidates for knee radiofrequency ablation are generally patients with chronic knee pain, even those who have post knee replacement pain. As the procedure uses continuous radiofrequency treatment for pain, it does not affect strength, sensation or movement.
Radiofrequency ablation SI joint
Radiofrequency ablation of the sacroiliac joint (SI joint) also uses RF to heat and destroy nerves that transmit pain signals from the SI joint to the brain. Candidates for SI joint radiofrequency ablation are generally patients with chronic pain, who experienced pain relief after injection of numbing medicine to the SI joint, but did not have pain relief results with other types of therapy.
Are there any risks involved with RF treatment?
There are risks that relate to RF procedures, such as the placement of the needle electrode that may result in direct trauma to blood vessels and nerves. Risks include bleeding and infection. Also, the procedure may not have the pain relief effect and sometimes may even make the pain worse.
CRF has more risks due to thermal lesioning of nerves, since it may cause damage to other nerves on site. In addition, nerve regeneration may lead to neuroma formation causing the pain to worsen.
Other complications include hematoma, numbness, and others.
However, there are no known risks associated with noninvasive RF pain relief devices.
Noninvasive RF treatment – Solio Alfa Plus
Solio Alfa Plus is FDA-cleared for pain relief. It utilizes RF energy to treat a variety of chronic pain symptoms and conditions. It also utilizes two other energy sources, LLLT energy and IR heat energy, for improved pain relief. In fact, Solio Alfa Plus is the only FDA-cleared home-use device featuring the patented synergy of 3 energy sources to gain pain relief and help the body heal itself.
As chronic pain affects your life, explore the safe, easy pain relief device that offers home pain relief that was previously only available in medical settings, through painful procedures. In contrast, Solio Alfa Plus is safe, has no known side effects, and while applied on the skin, penetrates deep into tissue layers at the site of pain to treat the source of pain.