Before a radiofrequency ablation is performed, the source of your pain will be confirmed using a nerve block. During a nerve block procedure, an anesthetic is injected into the area of the nerve that is believed to be causing your pain. If you experience relief, the right nerve has been identified.
The radiofrequency procedure itself takes about 30 to 60 minutes. It is performed on an outpatient basis. The area where the procedure will be performed is numbed with a local anesthetic. Then a small needle is inserted. Once the needle is in place, a small current is set through it to ensure that it is in the correct place. The right nerve placement is found using X-ray guidance. Once proper placement has been confirmed, an electrical current that produces radio waves is sent through the needle. These radio waves heat up the nerve ending for about 90 seconds. As a result, the targeted nerve is destroyed. People describe the sensation of the electrical current as a tingling sensation or one similar to hitting your funny bone.
You may experience some discomfort around the needle placement site after your procedure. This usually subsides within two to three days. Some people experience burning or numbness in the area. This side effect usually only lasts for a couple of weeks. If you are feeling pain or tenderness near the treatment site, an ice pack can help. It is recommended that you rest the day of your procedure. Most people can go back to their normal activities the next day.