614661 tn?1267273924

RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation) Who had this, "burn or kill" the nerves?

Hi, I am interested in anyone who has had this procedure done and the effect of it? It may be called RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation) where they "burn or kill" the nerves. The area I am researching would be those that have had in for lower back issues.

If anyone can provide feedback, I would appreciate it.

Thank, Oz
28 Responses
Avatar universal
I did not have a RFA for my back, but I did have one for my ankle. I first want to say that before anyone has one to make sure that your insurance will cover it-- mine called it experimental even though it had been approved for at least five years. I found out after the fact. Thankfully the hospital where I had it done was a teaching hospital with patient assistance and they forgave the bill.

For me I hated it I had deep pain in my ankle for about four days and then it did not work. But I know now why it did not work. I had pinched nerve (among other problems in my foot) due to a chronically sprained ankle that all my doctors and physical therapists missed. (The nerve is still healing since it was pinched for almost three years.)

I know my RFA story it not what you were looking for, I actually posted to encourage everyone makes sure their insurance covers it.

1508881 tn?1313114901
I had RFA 6 and 7 months ago (left side 7, right side 6) at L2-L5/S1. It took away 99% of my pain and I'm going pretty strong still. Previously I had been on Norco and Celebrex (or some form of NSAID's) for almost 3 solid years. When I was first sent to my PM doctor, I had epidural injections that lasted about a month. After my RFA, I no longer need to take Norco and only take Celebrex when I have a bad arthritis flare.

I'm still not able to be as physically active as I was, which is hard at 28, but my everyday life is a lot better. I may also be "babying" my back for fear of re-injuring myself. I have a feeling that the RFA might not last me much longer. When my epidural was wearing off, I had the same feeling. But as long as my insurance will pay for it, I will keep getting RFA as much as needed.
Avatar universal


I have not had RFA but it had been mentioned once to me.  It was my understanding that it would not really kill the nerve and the nerve would regenerate.

That spooked me as when I asked about how you would feel with the nerve coming back and what to expect, the doctor didn't seem to know what it would do!

My daughter pushed on a nerve when I carried her and it was pure murder and of course I couldn't take anything.  It took along time for that nerve to settle and it never fully recovered and I'm having issues with it now.  

I am glad you started this thread and I hope you share whatever you learn.

1508881 tn?1313114901
RFA doesn't kill the nerve. They burn the nerve to deaden the pain singles that the nerve is triggering. The nerve does regenerate over time. The length of time varies from person to person but is usually 6 - 24 months. So technically the nerves that were burned in my facet joints are currently growing back. I cannot specifically feel them "growing" as in pain. I just feel hints of my old daily pain coming back. I would imagine when the nerves to regenerate fully, that my pain will be the same as before I had RFA.

I didn't mention that I did have a complication from my second set of burns. It caused neuritis in my right thigh. Basically the nerves in my thigh acted up and it felt like a horrible sunburn and I couldn't stand to even wear pants. I had to of course but it was painful. I called my doctor and they gave me a steroid shot which calmed them down. My thigh is still numb and I get the electric shock feeling a lot. It's supposed to go away on it's own usually in six months or so. The shocks have gone down a lot but I still haven't gotten the feeling back on the outer side of my thigh.

Even going through all of that, I would still do RFA when the pain comes back. It's so much better than having to get epidurals or taking pain meds everyday. I figure if I get 6-8 months or however long out of it each time, its completely worth it.
My guess is that they went too deep with the needles and poked a nerve, that will cause symptoms that you are describing. they are only supposed to position them next to the nerve facets as to avoid problems as you were describing. I had a friend who went through a lumbar RFA and lost function in his foot and ankle. He had to wear a foot brace to keep from tripping on his feet all the time. He eventually regained feeling and control after about 8 months.
614661 tn?1267273924
Hi all,

Thanks for all this feedback, if there are more of you that have any feedback, please keep it coming. I will be on the phone today and this week to get in and see if I can have this done. After that, I am going to a Pain Management Clinic that runs for three weeks long (on-site) through the Courage Center.

I will post as I learn more, thanks much, Oz...
547368 tn?1440541785
I have heard of some excellent results from RFA. We have a member that swears by this procedure. I'll let her know you are asking.

Additionally if you can find anything in our archives by Jim Humphries, B.S., D.V.M. formerly from MedHelp's PetDocsOnCall it will be very helpful. He visited our forum and wrote extensively on his experience with RFA. He had nothing but glowing reports on the procedure and outcome.

Unfortunately RFA is not an option for me. I'll be very interested to hear about your experience also.

Avatar universal
Hi Oz!!

I am so happy to see that you are checking out the RFA as I suggested to you on your other post earlier!!

Have you had a chance to talk with your Doctor as yet to be sure that you will be a candidate for the RFA?  I would love to know what his feelings on the RFA are.  :)  

You already know the wonderful success story that I have had with the RFA and how much i love this procedure.  I hope to hear the very same success story from you some day soon on your own successful RFA.  I'm hoping that you will be able to say that you are going on 24 months of being almost 100% Pain Free, too!!!

As always, wishing you the very best..........Sherry  :)

614661 tn?1267273924
Hi all,

I just wanted to send a little update as I try to work with the VA and get an appointment setup for a nerve block. I did find out that the procedure mentioned throughout this thread as RFA is also known, at least by the VA, as a Medial Branch Block. If you Google Medial Branch Block you will see other names and what they are, there is just a boat load of information out there.

I will send an update as things progress.

Thanks, Oz...
1508881 tn?1313114901
I believe the Medial Branch Block is just the diagnostic test to see if you're a candidate for RFA. They inject lidocaine into your facet joints and if it brings down your pain, they then do the RFA.
Avatar universal
Hi Oz,

As atonicat said, the Medial Branch Block is the test they give you to see if it will work for you.  If this test gives you any relief at all then they should proceed with the actual RFA.

Believe me, I'm praying that the test will work great for you.  When they did the Block with me I got relief for a day or 2 and just that short period of time made me want the RFA so much!!! It was such a relief not to feel the burning, searing and horrific pain anymore.

We're all wishing very good things for you, Oz!!

We can hardly wait to hear all of the updates from you..........Sherry  :)
1508881 tn?1313114901
I only had a few hours of relief from the MBB and that was enough to make me a candidate! The MBB are good even if you're not a candidate because it can rule out your pain coming from the facet joints.
Avatar universal
I have had the RFA done in my lumbar and cervical region and I will swear by them. I have had every medical procedure you can think of and this procedure is the only one that has taken the pain away from the nerve pain I have in my neck. Yes, the nerve regenerates and it varies from person to person. For me, I got three years of relief in my neck. I am having it done again this Friday. I have had horrible neck pain now for the last 18 months and have finally gotten the ins. to approve the procedure. I have had a reduction in pain in my back as well. I could not believe how well it worked. I have had so many ESI's and the effects never lasted long. The RFA was a God send. Hopefully if you decide to do it, it will work for you as well.
4915901 tn?1360972742
I had it done in my neck and I am having problems.Its been two weeks now and my neck is hurting so bad and my head aches are terrible not to mention the swelling. Pain management doctor wants to do the left side next.NOT!
Avatar universal
i had this nerve block/burn done twice not..1st time helped on both sides of my lower back#s 4&5..lasted maybe 6mos...second time just approx 5 weeks ago ..did not go as well not the same relief as 1st and pain in needles was great..so today i go in 4 a steriod shot each side i hope that helps for awhile..
Avatar universal
I had it as well, worked pretty good but did cost me over 500.00 out of pocket after insurance. That was over a year ago. I am in awful pain again and considering going back, I just wish it lasted longer. Mine was about 7 months. Did you have to have the test shots again before the actual procedure?
Avatar universal
I have had lower back problems for many years. I have taken pain meds for years now. A chiropractor refered me to go get steroid shots at the pain management clinic. I did that, each set of shots gave me relief which lasted about a month. I had the shots three times. The relief I got from them made me a candidate for RFA. After the first RFA I told my Dr. (the  anesthesiologist that works with me), "thank you for giving me my life back." The procedure lasted me for about six months, when the nerves started to grow back. I waited another four months and was in terrible pain before I made an appt. to go back for another treatment. The second time it lasted me about nine months. Again, I waited a few months to go back. I just had my third treatment three weeks ago. I am better, but not as good as before. I am hoping that as the nerves calm down I will be in even less pain (like I was before). I am soo grateful for RFA! It gets me off the pain drugs for a while. I do recomend to have someone who really knows how to do this, to help you. I am always leary to do such an invasive thing to my back, but I have an AWESOME Dr. who I trust. RFA is way better for me than injecting steroids in my back, as I had a bad reaction each time I had them and when the Dr. changed the steroids because of that, they did not work at all. I will likely do RFA again if needed...
Avatar universal
I am two weeks post RFA. My first 10 days were very painful, but then finally I started improving. This is not normal from the experiences if some friends who's pain after was much less. Now, the biggest issue are a large area on each hip that feels badly sunburnt. I follow up with the dr tomorrow and hope he can help in some way. However, if anyone has any tips on how to treat this, I'm all ears!  I responded well to both sets of injections before hand, so I have high hopes for my improvement over the next few days.
Avatar universal
I forgot to mention that I had this performed on 8 locations on my lower back.
7721494 tn?1431627964
Pink -- your doctor can prescribe a cream to help with the 'sunburn.' Call him today!
3112530 tn?1434032033
RFA's have made a difference in the quality of my life.
Each doctor I went to gave me steroid injections which only lasted two weeks. I have degenerative joint/disk disease and CA NO LONGER have steroid injections due to the deterioration it does to my bones.
I have had serious hip (piriformis) issues along with sciatic nerve issues. I have been to many a doctor and all they would do is shots. I got tired of the shots not working so off I went to see another doctor. This time, I went through the VA and found they had a pain management clinic that was educated and well informed on this procedure. I have had RFA's in the past and they always worked for me but no other doctor I went to would take on this procedure. They said they would but when I arrived and asked about an RFA, they responded with shots.
The VA I went to was rather amazing. I was awake for the procedure and had my hip done as the doctor explained to me what he was doing. I asked this doctor why I was always 'put out' for this procedure and the doctor responded that they prefer to keep the patient awake to make sure they are hitting the correct area. His response to my question was 'that is one way to pad the bill'.
The next procedure with RFA was done two weeks later on my sciatic nerve. Again, he explained to me what he was doing and showed me the fluoroscope afterwards where the needles were inserted.
Yes the nerves do grow back but with physical therapy, the nerves have a better chance of recovering the correct way.
I have had RFA's in the past and they kept me walking, something I haven't done in quite some time, due to the pain. I am now walking again and very happy with the education I learned as the doctor was doing the procedure. It's nice to have confidence in a doctor again especially in the VA system. The doctor noted in my records that I am not to have any more steroid shots! Amazing to see an educated doctor do the right thing now a days and I am thankful for this experience of walking again and out of pain. Yes I know the nerve will grow back but the doctor informed me to call him in the event I have any pain for follow up before the situation gets out of hand. My waiting time between appointments was reasonable and a note to the hospital director about the professionalism of this team was worth the recognition. Recommend writing to the director for both good and bad comments but I will say, my experience was good.
Avatar universal
7721494 tn?1431627964
You speak truth, my friend. I've had RFA in the cervical and lumbar regions, at multiple levels, and I've had great results in pain reduction.

I begin to feel moderate pain about 6 months after an ablation. I'm now 16 months out on my lumbar, and 13 months from my last cervical procedure, and I'm now getting worked up for another round.

Last year Cigna refused my prior auth for more ablations. I now have another insurer, and I hope that I do not have the same problem with an insurance company rejecting my request.

Best of luck to you.
Avatar universal
I have been getting the injections for several years and am getting ready to talk to my Dr, about the RFA procedure. I am researching it before I make up my mind. But from what I have been reading it has worked for most people. I have done everything from pain meds to physical therapy to injections. The only options left are the neuro-stimulator, the RFA procedure and surgery. If there is anyone out there that can give me more feedback I would greatly appreciate it.
Avatar universal
I have been getting the injections for several years and am getting ready to talk to my Dr, about the RFA procedure. I am researching it before I make up my mind. But from what I have been reading it has worked for most people. I have done everything from pain meds to physical therapy to injections. The only options left are the neuro-stimulator, the RFA procedure and surgery. If there is anyone out there that can give me more feedback I would greatly appreciate it.
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