At our New Jersey spine specialty practice, we have long believed in providing our patients with a wide range of treatment options for their lower back pain. Our philosophy has always been to begin with a conservative approach, trying the different treatment protocols that we have found most effective for previous patients until we arrive at the right solution for each individual. Though we do offer minimally invasive surgery, we tend to withhold these approaches until we find that others have failed.
A new study presented at the Radiologic Society of North America’s (RSNA) Annual Meeting examines one of the approaches that is minimally invasive — the researchers studied the impact of a minimally invasive technology called pulsed radiofrequency that provided promising results.
In light of the prevalence of lower back pain in the United States and around the world, there is a lot of research directed towards finding effective cures. Of the 80 percent of U.S. adults who experience low back pain at some point in their lives, many suffer terribly, to the point of disability. In most cases, these patients have been diagnosed with either sciatica or a herniated disk that can cause pain for months.
The pulsed radiofrequency treatment was studied by researchers from Sapienza University of Rome in Italy. The group explained to the large RSNA gathering in Chicago that pulsed radiofrequency is safe and effective when performed using CT guidance.
The conservative approaches that are generally used by our practice when a patient reports lower back pain generally start with over the counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories, the use of ice and heat, massage, stretching and physical therapy. If these protocols don’t bring relief we move on to other treatments, including injections with corticosteroids. The radiofrequency that the researchers studied applies energy pulses to the roots of the nerves that are causing the pain. It proved particularly helpful for patients diagnosed with herniated discs and sciatica.
To determine the efficacy of the approach, the researchers identified patients who had previously been diagnosed with herniated discs and whose pain had not responded to previous conservative treatment approaches. They split the group into two, with approximately 10 dozen receiving a single 10-minute session of pulsed radiofrequency and the other similarly-sized group receiving one to three sessions of CT-guided steroid injections. The researchers then followed up with both groups over the course of the year to determine the impact of both treatments.
What they found was that the group that had the single session of pulsed radiofrequency experienced a 95 percent perceived recovery. This was compared to a 61 percent perceived recovery in the group that had received the steroid injections. The group that had pulsed radiofrequency also had a significant reduction in disability.
Speaking of their findings, Dr. Alessandro Napoli, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a professor of interventional radiology at Sapienza University said,
“Pulsed radiofrequency creates a nerve modulation, significantly reducing inflammation and its associated symptoms… 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. Treatment lasts 10 minutes, and one session was enough in a large number of treated patients.”
He also pointed out that none of the participants experienced any side effects, and that the best effects that they experienced came from administering pulsed radiofrequency followed by steroid injection.
If you are experiencing lower back pain and would like to speak to our physicians to learn what relief may be available to you, contact our New Jersey spine specialists today to set up an appointment.