Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require surgery. The procedure uses heat to reduce or stop the pain. It’s most commonly used to treat chronic pain, sacroiliitis, and spondylosis. On the other hand, steroid injections are corticosteroids, or an anti-inflammatory injection, that may be used to treat an array of problems, like sciatica and arthritis.
When it comes to pain relief and fast-acting treatment, which is better, radiofrequency ablation vs. steroid injections?
To answer this, we need to understand both options.
There are plenty of benefits to having this procedure, including immediate pain relief, improved function, a decreased need for medication, and a quicker return to everyday activities.
As for how long pain relief will last after treatment, everyone is different. For some, pain relief can last anywhere between 9 to 18 months, while for others, it could last just a few months. Most patients, however, report a pain-relief period of 6 to 9 months.
During your treatment, a mild sedative along with local anesthetic is administered intravenously through the arm. A needle is then inserted into the treatment site. A microelectrode is then inserted through the small needle to administer the pain relief treatment.
Radiofrequency ablation creates a burned lesion, but the nerve can regrow through that lesion. If this happens, it tends to be around 6 to 12 months after your procedure, and you can book for another treatment.
While complications from radiofrequency ablation are rare, they can include allergic reactions to medication used during the procedure, numbness or infections.
Steroid injections are made up of a range of formulations of medications. Typically, you’ll receive a combination of anti-inflammatory and painkiller medication, depending on your ailment. You can expect to feel pain relief within 24 to 48 hours after receiving an injection, however, studies show that success is not guaranteed. Back pain sufferers only benefit minimally, if at all, from cortisone injections.
While a steroid shot might ease your back pain, you can expect the pain to return a few months down the road. In other words, injections can help to ease pain, but won’t change the course of the pain.
What’s more, steroid injections come with a variety of potential complications. While it’s a safe option and non-surgical at that, complications can arise. Steroid injection side effects are rare, but can include:
Steroid injections are also known to occasionally result in thinning of the skin or changes in the color of your skin at the site of the injection, especially if you receive frequent shots. They might also lead to the loss of cartilage tissue, although there is insufficient evidence to support this.
A steroid injection works within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the shot, but successful and permanent pain relief is not promised.
On the other hand, radiofrequency ablation uses high-energy electromagnetic waves to destroy the nerves that carry pain impulses. It’s ideal if you’ve already tried injections with no success. It’s also a procedure that can work immediately and last for many months. Radiofrequency ablation can also treat a larger area compared to steroid injections.
The right treatment for you depends on your condition and what you wish to achieve.
Contact Integrated Pain Consultants at (480) 210-6012 to discuss your pain-relief options today.