Relief For Back Pain

A CBS HealthWatch Special Report



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Radiofrequency neurolysis in use (photo courtesy of ABIPM).
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Nov 18, 2002 7:25 pm US/Eastern
(CBS) (NEW YORK) Karen Duffy never thought she'd be able to play with her children again after a tragic car accident, intense pain paralyzed her left side. Her head, neck and back throbbed constantly, "I really thought that's it, I have to live with this forever!!"

But thanks to a new high tech procedure which uses radio waves to zap away back pain, Karen is now able to shoot hoops, garden and push her son Andrew on a swing, activities that were impossible before treatment. CBS 2's Dr. Mike Rosen has the story.

"It's amazing, I could move! instantaneously I'm 100% better," says Karen.

This half-hour procedure is for patients who suffer from pain that originates in the facets of the spine.

That's where vertebrae touch each other. The facets have nerves and it's these irritated nerves which can cause pain.

"We've put a probe into the needle that will deliver current," says Dr. Christoper Gharibo, the Director of Pain Management at the Hospital for Joint Diseases. Gharibo performs the radiofrequency neurolysis.

First, using x-ray images, the facets causing discomfort are identified. Thin needles are placed near the facets, as close as possible to those irritated nerves.

Electricity is then delivered through the needle by a generator which creates a form of energy, radiofrequency energy. These radiofrequency waves act like a stun gun on the nerves, temporarily destroying them and preventing pain for up to a year.

"The intense electrical field that builds up at the tip of the needle makes the nerve not transmit pain," says Gharido.

Just two months ago, horsing around with his 5-year- old daughter was out of the question for Paul Skretkowicz, "It just got to be horrendous, the pain intensified."

A car accident left Stretkowicz with excruciating back pain and numbness, "I tried acupuncture, magnets, a lot of different medication." But radiofrequency neurolysis did the trick.

It's important to remember that the procedure offers temporary relief. The painful nerve fibers that were zapped will eventually grow back. But, you should remain pain-free for up to a year.

For Karen Duffy, she's enjoying every moment of her precious pain-free time, "Radiofrequency was a god send. I regained my life completely back."

You may be a candidate for this procedure if you've had chronic back pain caused by the spine's facets which has persisted for more than 3 months, with no relief from medication or physical therapy.

Side effects from the procedure may include some initial back pain and soreness.

But that goes away.


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