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Study Identifies Pulsed Radiofrequency as Potent Answer for Low Back Pain

According to a recent study, patients suffering from chronic low back pain for whom conservative treatments haven’t worked may find significant relief from the use of a minimally invasive protocol called pulsed radiofrequency. The study’s results were presented at the recent meeting of the Radiological Society of North America by its authors, researchers from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy.

Back pain is a problem that impacts people all over the world, and in the United States, roughly 8 out of 10 adults will experience it at some point in their lives. For some back pain is a nuisance that can be addressed with over-the-counter medication, rest and a few stretching exercises, but for others suffering from conditions such as sciatica or a herniated disc, the pain can be excruciating and debilitating.

The conservative treatment options beyond pain relievers and rest include massage, physical therapy, and the use of ice and heat. Some patients move on to prescription pain medication and injections, and when those fail they may consider undergoing minimally invasive spine surgery. The new type of nerve stimulation that the researchers studied adds another powerful weapon in the battle against pain, and may be able to provide patients with long-term relief.

Pulsed Radiofrequency

The treatment is known as pulsed radiofrequency. It addresses pain from sciatica and disc herniation by applying energy pulses directly to the roots of the nerves that are closest to the spine. The scientists involved in the study used the new technology on a group of over 12 dozen patients who had previously been diagnosed with herniated disks in their lower back that had not responded to conservative treatment. Each patient was provided an individual single treatment that lasted about ten minutes. It was administered under CT guidance.

Speaking of the impact of the treatment, senior author and professor of interventional radiology at Sapienza University Dr. Alessandro Napoli, Ph.D. said, “Pulsed radiofrequency creates a nerve modulation, significantly reducing inflammation and its associated symptoms,” stated. Following the single-session treatments, the researchers then provided a similar group of participants with CT-guided steroid injections, with those treatments ranging from a single dose to doses administered in three different sessions.

Upon comparing the results of treatment between the two groups in the first year after treatment, the researchers determined that those who had received the pulsed radiofrequency treatment reported significantly greater pain relief and lower disability scores when compared to the group that had received steroid injections. Remarkably, they found that 95 percent of those who had received pulsed radiofrequency felt that they had recovered from their pain, while only 61 percent of the group that received the injections reported similar success.

The team concluded that pulsed radiofrequency is a therapy that needs further exploration, particularly because the researchers found that using the new method was not only more effective, but also provided faster results than other approaches.

Treatment lasts 10 minutes, and one session was enough in a large number of treated patients,” said Dr. Alessandro Napoli, Ph.D.

He added that participants experienced no side effects, and continues, “We learned that when pulsed radiofrequency is followed by steroid injection, the result is longer-lasting and more efficacious than injection only. Given our study results, we offer pulsed radiofrequency to patients with herniated disk and sciatic nerve compression whose symptoms do not benefit from conservative therapy.”

For information on how we can help you improve your lower back pain, contact our office today to set up an appointment.