Radio Frequency Ablation

A Radio Frequency Ablation is a procedure where high frequency radio waves are used to generate heat and “burn a nerve”. This does not require a high level of heat so you might feel some warmth but not a burning sensation, or you may not feel anything at all. All nerves regenerate over time, so the results will not last forever, however, some patients experience pain relief for 6 months to a year.

The procedure will be performed much like the Medial Branch Blocks which you have had done before. The main difference is that during this procedure, you need to be completely alert so that you can tell the doctor when you feel sensations that will indicate when he has the probe at the nerve. This procedure takes 30 minutes to 1 hour to perform.

The doctor will clean your back/neck with Betadine, and then he will inject a numbing agent into the sites for the needles. He will then insert a small probe which conducts an electric current. Next, he will ask you to respond when you feel pressure, tingling, or a thumping sensation. You may feel these sensations in your back or even into your buttocks, but he does not want you to feel it in your lower legs/feet. After testing the nerves, an x-ray technician will set the machine to deliver a small current of radio frequency waves, which generate heat and “burn the nerve”. This will be repeated for each of the sites.

You may shower but do not soak in hot water, or apply heat to your injection sites. Use ice packs as needed for pain or swelling. You need to take it easy over the next couple of days.


  • You should not drive the day of your procedure.