One of the most under-diagnosed causes of lower back pain is the Facet Joints. The backbone is comprised of 33 vertebrae. Within the spine, each vertebra is linked with two facet joints on either side. Each of these facet joints contains what’s called a “medial nerve” which serves as the source of sensation within the joint. If too much pressure is placed on the nerve, chronic pain can result. Injury to the cervical facet joints or degeneration over time due to repeated movement often leads to radiating pain in the shoulders, upper back, arms, hands, and fingers.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the prevalence of facet joint pain in patients with chronic cervical spine pain was 55% and in the lumbar spine 31%.
Rhizotomy is a treatment for facet joint-related pain. The procedure is frequently used when there are facet joint issues in the lower back. Rhizotomy is one of the least invasive procedures available and is used to help patients who suffer from back pain and muscle spasms.
The word “rhizotomy” traces its origins as far back as 1910 and comes from two root words: rhizo- (root) and -tomy (incision). The procedure is the actual severing of nerve roots at a facet joint in order to disrupt the sensation of pain.
Two common types of rhizotomy are radiofrequency ablation and endoscopic rhizotomy.
With radiofrequency ablation, heat is used to disable the nerve that causes the patient’s pain. It involves a needle and X-ray helps doctors target the nerve. Though this method can be referred to as “rhizotomy,” a traditional endoscopic rhizotomy involves using a small camera to find the affected location.
The camera travels directly through the nerve branch, revealing the precise location and area of the problematic nerve(s). Once the location is revealed, the doctor will make a small incision on the nerve roots.
Most patients feel immediate relief after endoscopic rhizotomy as opposed to the month it can take post radiofrequency ablation. While radiofrequency ablation reduces pain for up to one year, endoscopic rhizotomy results can last for 3 to 5 years.
To determine if a patient is a good candidate for the procedure, doctors will confirm that a medial nerve is the primary cause of pain. This can be done through a diagnostic injection or an MRI.
Some doctors may recommend physical therapy to help patients recover from their rhizotomy procedure. Therapy will help to strengthen the core and back muscles, giving the body more stability.
Spine and Wellness Centers of America known as South Florida’s Best Spine Doctors are proud to offer this procedure outpatient in-office using the highest state of the art and sterile techniques.
The entire procedure lasts only 30 minutes to an hour. Facet joint rhizotomies have up to an 80 % success rate. Though nerves can regenerate causing pain to recur, the procedure can be repeated.
The professional team of experts at Spine and Wellness Centers of America is proficient at performing this safe, minimally invasive procedure. All patients enjoy a holistic and tailored approach to make sure they are pain-free. Facet joint pain is one of the most common causes of back pain. The doctors at SWCA are fully knowledgeable at providing individualized treatment to address the causes of pain to help patients quickly return to their everyday activities.