Chronic pain caused by inflammation of a nerve in the spinal facet joints can affect merely every aspect of your life. Whether you are retired or still in the workforce, the pain and mobility problems can make easy tasks very difficult. While many patients are able to find relief from conservative options such as over-the-counter medication or hot and cold therapy, others notice that their symptoms worsen over time.
For patients looking for relief from facet joint pain, a facet thermal ablation can provide relief. This is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that uses a laser to heat sensory nerves in the joint. By disrupting the pain signal, patients can find relief on a long-term basis.
If you or a loved one is suffering from facet joint pain, facet thermal ablation might be a solution for you. BEST Health System offers patients access to minimally invasive surgical alternatives which allows more efficient procedures with a faster recovery time. If you are interested in learning more about thermal facet ablation, continue reading.
What Does Thermal Facet Ablation Treat?
In the spinal column, the vertebral bone segments are connected by facet joints. Each vertebrae has two pairs that join together with the segment above and below, allowing us to bend and flex our neck and back. The most common cause of facet joint pain as we get older is arthritis, which leads to inflammation of the facet joints.
In addition to stiffness and grinding sensations, one of the ways that chronic pain can develop as a result of spinal arthritis is due to irritation of the sensory nerves in the joint. Inflamed joint tissue can rub up against these nerves, causing severe pain and discomfort. While there are other forms of treatment and surgical procedures for facet disease, facet thermal ablation can be effective because it disrupts the pain signal at the right source.
Am I a Candidate for Facet Thermal Ablation?
Although it is a minimally invasive procedure, facet thermal ablations are elective and should b e seen as a last resort treatment option. People considering spine surgery to relieve facet joint pain typically have chronic pain that is severely affecting their quality of life and interfering with daily activities.
Additionally, doctors will recommend patients first explore nonsurgical treatment options before exploring the possibility of surgery. Effective conservative therapies for spinal arthritis and facet joint pain can include:
- Non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Periods of rest and activity modification
- Hot and/or cold compress therapy
- Posture improvement
- Lifestyle changes including nutritional counseling, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking, if necessary
- Physical therapy
- Facet injections
You and your doctor may begin to consider surgery if a full course of conservative treatments was ineffective or if symptoms suddenly worsen. When meeting with a surgeon to discuss a spine procedure, you can expect a thorough discussion of your symptoms, a review of diagnostic imagery to identify the source of pain as well as a physical evaluation to ensure there is not a medical condition that would preclude your ability to undergo surgery.
What to Expect from the Procedure and Recovery Process
Facet thermal ablation can be performed at an ambulatory surgery center as an outpatient procedure. First, your surgeon makes a small incision at the location of the inflamed facet joint. They will then use muscle-sparing techniques and direct visualization to guide surgical equipment to the problematic nerve. Your surgeon will then use a laser to carefully heat the nerve endings that are causing pain. These are sensory nerves only, so only pain signals are disrupted without affecting movement. Facet thermal ablations are often performed in conjunction with other minimally invasive spinal decompression procedures, such as discectomy or foraminotomy.
You can expect to return home the night of the surgery and you will receive detailed instructions for recovery and a timeline for resuming daily activities.
Reach Out to BEST Health System
Facet joint pain, along with other forms of chronic pain, can be extremely debilitating. It can prevent you from doing the things you love with the people you love. Don’t allow your condition to hold you back. Contact BEST Health System today and get started on your path to recovery. The BEST is yet to come.