A large number of Canadians suffer from lower back pain, often left with an inability to work or enjoy their daily activities. In some cases, their options are limited due to lack of resources or the long wait time they have to endure to get treatment. The facet joints are often the primary source of back pain. Facet joints are small joints located in pairs on the back of the spine. They provide stability to the spine and allow the spine to move and be flexible.
Depending on where the problematic facet joints are located, they can cause pain in the mid-back, ribs, chest (thoracic facet joints), lower back, abdomen, buttocks, groin, or legs (lumbar facet joints), neck, shoulders, and even headaches (cervical facet joints).
The most common treatment is a facet joint injection of steroid medication. The injections not only provide pain relief, but they can also help the physician pinpoint exactly where the pain originates and can confirm or reject the facet joints as the source of the pain. Most of the time these provide adequate relief, however, the pain relief is too short-lived. For these patients, facet rhizotomy (also called radiofrequency rhizotomy) may be an alternative. Unfortunately, this procedure is limited in Canada. Health Vantis has great news! We have facilities in the US that are equip to do these.
The goal of a facet rhizotomy is to provide pain relief by “shutting off” the pain signals that the joints send to the brain. The nerves causing the pain are ablated, in laymen terms, burnt/killed. The pain relief experienced by most patients who have this procedure lasts months or even years. Patients who are candidates for rhizotomy have typically have undergone several facet joint injections to verify the source and exact location of their pain.
The procedure is done by using a local anesthetic and x-ray guidance, a needle with an electrode at the tip is placed alongside the small nerves to the facet joint. The electrode is then heated, with a technology called radiofrequency, to deaden these nerves that carry pain signals to the brain. Note: The nerve will re-generate over time so this is not a cure but a way to treat your pain more long term. Serious complications are rare. The procedure takes about 30-60 minutes and the patient is able to leave with no restrictions shortly thereafter. The effects of the procedure usually take 7-10 days to fully take affect.
If you suffer from back pain and think you could be a candidate for this, please contact us to see if we can help!