What’s the Downtime After Radiofrequency Ablation?

What’s the Downtime After Radiofrequency Ablation?

Dec 14, 2023
Imagine pain relief lasting months and possibly two years or longer. Sound too good to be true? It’s possible with radiofrequency ablation, a safe treatment that gives you long-lasting relief and requires little downtime.

Do you still struggle with chronic pain despite standard medical care? If so, it’s time to learn about radiofrequency ablation, a safe treatment that eases pain from any cause, gives long-lasting pain relief, and requires minimal downtime.

Our Alliance Spine and Pain Centers team has extensive experience performing radiofrequency ablation and providing personalized care that helps patients find their way back to optimal health.

Let’s explore how radiofrequency ablation works and the downtime required after the procedure.

How radiofrequency ablation works

Radiofrequency ablation precisely targets the nerve carrying pain messages to your brain. We inject a local anesthetic (a nerve block) to verify it’s the right nerve. If the nerve block relieves your pain, we can perform radiofrequency ablation.

During radiofrequency ablation, we insert a needle-like device, place it on the nerve, and release a short burst of energy through the needle. 

The energy wounds the nerve, and the wound stops pain signals from traveling through the nerve to your brain. Since your brain doesn’t get the message, your pain significantly diminishes.

Radiofrequency ablation typically eases your pain for nine months; the results can last two years or longer. The treatment could wear off in 6-12 months if your nerve regenerates quickly.

Downtime after radiofrequency ablation

After leaving the office, you should rest for at least 24 hours. Since everyone reacts differently to medical procedures and recovers at a different pace, some people take downtime for two or three days.

You should expect minor discomfort at the needle insertion site, such as pain, swelling, bruising, muscle cramps, or hypersensitivity. These side effects improve within a week or two. 

Most patients only need to take over-the-counter pain relievers and apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes several times daily to relieve their discomfort.

Radiofrequency ablation results

How quickly patients experience results varies. Some people notice immediate pain relief, while others may not get significant relief for a few weeks. On average, the pain you had before radiofrequency ablation improves within 10 days.

Returning to activities after radiofrequency ablation

Many people return to work and their usual activities when their 24-hour rest period ends, but your pain level should be your guide. Don’t engage in strenuous activities for a few days if it aggravates the treated area.

Remember that you may need to increase your activity level gradually — not because of the radiofrequency ablation procedure — but because the pain you had before your treatment limited your movement.

Depending on how long you’ve endured pain and lived with limited mobility, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons will be weak, tight, and generally out of shape.

You may be so thrilled with the pain relief after your radiofrequency ablation that you’re tempted to jump back into activities. Unfortunately, that could put you at risk of straining your muscles and ligaments and suffering a reinjury or new injury.

We often recommend physical therapy to help you rebuild muscle strength, regain flexibility and movement, and restore optimal function.

Don’t wait longer to learn if radiofrequency ablation can improve your pain. Call Alliance Spine and Pain Centers or book an appointment online today.