Treatments have changed a lot over the years, says Steve Yoon, MD, a sports injury and joint pain expert in Los Angeles. “There are more options than ever,” he says.
Doctors may use many options together to help you feel better.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
RFA targets the nerves that send pain signals to your brain. Your doctor will use a needle with a tip that heats up. The needle is placed very close to the nerve. The heat zaps it so that it can’t send the pain signal.
A newer type of it, called “cooled RFA,” may offer more precise relief, says Anita Gupta, DO, PharmD, co-chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Ad Hoc Committee for Prescription Opioid Abuse. Research is underway to see if cooled RFA is more effective than the regular kind.
Radiofrequency ablation can relieve pain for 8 months to a year. After that, a doctor can treat you with it again.
Look for someone who has training to do it, Gupta says.
These deliver medicine directly where they’re needed in your body. A doctor will usually use an X-ray to find where to put it.
Your doctor will decide which medicine is best. Steroids and local anesthetics (painkillers) are often used together. Local anesthetics numb the nerve or muscle. Steroids ease inflammation, which lowers pain.
There are many types of shots for chronic pain.
Nerve root blocks target the nerves along the spine that lead to pain in other areas, such as the arms or legs.
Epidural steroid injections can help with disc problems, like herniated discs. The shots go in the outer part of your spinal column.