Pulsed Radiofrequency Relieves Acute Back Pain and Sciatica

Pulsed Radiofrequency Relieves Acute Back Pain and Sciatica

By Staff.

Using  pulses of energy from a probe applied directly to nerve roots near the spine provides effective relief for people with acute lower back pain.

Herniated disks are often the source of sciatica, or pain that radiates downward from the lower back into the leg. Conservative treatment options for herniated disks range from over-the-counter pain medications to injections of corticosteroids directly into the affected area of the spine. Those who don’t respond may require surgery. In some cases, the entire disk must be removed and the vertebra fused together for stability.

An alternative technique, CT-guided pulsed radiofrequency (pRF), applies energy through an electrode under CT guidance to the portion of the nerve responsible for sending pain signals.

“Pulsed radiofrequency creates a nerve modulation, significantly reducing inflammation and its associated symptoms,” said study senior author Alessandro Napoli, M.D., Ph.D., professor of interventional radiology at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.

Dr. Napoli and colleagues studied the approach in patients with back pain from lumbar disk herniation that had not responded to prolonged conservative treatment. In 128 patients, the pRF treatment was delivered directly under CT guidance to the root of the nerve. The treatment was applied for 10 minutes.

For comparison, a group of 120 patients received one to three sessions of CT-guided steroid injection on the same anatomical target with no pRF.

The one-year outcomes demonstrated that CT-guided pRF was superior to the injection-only strategy. Patients who received pRF saw greater overall improvement in pain and disability scores during the first year. Relief of leg pain was faster in patients assigned to pRF, and they also reported a faster rate of perceived recovery. The probability of perceived recovery after one year of follow-up was 95 percent in the pRF group, compared with 61 percent in the injection only group.

“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,” Dr. Napoli said.

“We learned that when pulsed radiofrequency is followed by steroid injection, the result is longer lasting and more efficacious than injection only,” Dr. Napoli said. “The effect of pulsed radiofrequency is fast and without adverse events.”

Today, therapy for spine disorders allows for definitive treatment of symptoms and conditions using different techniques and technologies.

“Of the different therapies available, pulsed radiofrequency is among the least invasive,” Dr. Napoli said. “Treatment lasts 10 minutes, and one session was enough in a large number of treated patients.”

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Authored by: Staff

newest oldest
Notify of

Back pain should not be ignored in its early stages, proper tests must be done and appropriate medicine must be taken prescribed by the doctor to relieve pain. People waste a lot of money on irrelevant medicine and therapies that do not cure their disease.

I like Kate’s comment below, i think she makes a good point. I’ve done a fair bit of stretching and can say that helps in conjunction with using a massager daily. Its not perfect but its a step in the right direction..

By far the best option to help your Sciatica is going to be stretching! My relief came through regular yoga which provided just the right stretches for my hips, lower back and piriformis to relieve the discomfort and help me feel good again. The key word in that sentence: REGULAR. You can’t stretch a few times, call it a day and expect any change to occur. For true help you will need to make regular stretching part of your routine.


Hi, I have had an epidural steroid, L5 nerve block plus cortisone, all temporary. Im a FBSS patient I guess ( had surgery 12 years ago) Tried pulsed RFA 3 weeks ago and have some relief, just wondering how long will it last and if the tingling in my big toe and toothache like sensation in my L4/5 area will go at all… but the leg doesn’t hurt anymore, thats true.. All the best to everyone.


I tried this procedure 3x’s and it was no help to me. I had a herniated disc at L-5 S-1. Had spinal fusion surgery which was total failure. Left with chronic back and leg pain with opioid therapy the only thing that helps. Going on 16 years.


Pulsed RFA is a procedure done by a trained physician in a sterile procedure room. From the time you are on the table to the time you are moved out of the room, is 10 to 20 minutes. I’ve had it done multiple times for my lower back and to my neck. I had great results with years between treatments. Nothing stays in you. They burn the nerves causing you the pain. I had 1 to 2 trial procedures called MBB’s, medial branch blocks, to locate the problem area. Then the RFA to zap the nerves. If anything stays in you or is done in physical therapy, it’s not RFA!


Sorry, no help for me. And now without pain meds, which worked for 20+ years, I truly know what worked. Living hell on earth, well actually not living just existing.

Caregiver 24/7/365

Question for Loni and Dorothy. Wondering if your comments are with regard to the procedure being described here or some other thing, because the article says “treatment was delivered directly under CT guidance”… and “applied for 10 minutes”. And, in the last sentence: ““Treatment lasts 10 minutes, and one session was enough in a large number of treated patients.” It sounds to me as if there’s a wire briefly inserted and guided, targeted at a nerve, and after 10 minutes it’s removed.

Loni says she “begged the person to take it off me”. Does that mean take the wire out, or was there some other contraption involved such as during the trial phase of an electro-stim procedure?

Dorothy speaks of her husband’s “device” that got stuck on a high setting after 10 minutes “back in his room”. (Sounds horrible, by the way!!). But that sequence of events doesn’t sound like it would/could happen with the procedure described here, which is in and out in 10 minutes — done; freaky fast, like a certain sandwich provider.

Katie Olmstead

This is different than radioablation? Sounds similar but there isn’t the pulse aspect. I may be having radioablation in my thoracic spine. I have heard good things. I am not interested in having a nightmare procedure. Is this something that is embedded and stays?


Yes, I’ve had a type of those electric impulses during PT several times,long ago.. For me it made me spasm horribly. I begged the person to take it off me. The spasms & cramps would not stop.They refused to help massage the area,shoulders & kneck. It’s worth a try as,it can help. But please make sure they will help you if it causes spasms & cramping. God be with you.


It worked for me 58 year old male with failed back surgery had been in pain for 8 years. Miracle….

Dorothy Cohen

People can truly be desperate. Which I can truly understand especially now a days)
My husband tried this and within 10 min after being back in his room the power and speed of the device got stuck on HIGH. His whole body was convulsing. The nurses had no idea how to turn it down. I finally got it to stop and my husband had it immediately removed. It can work for some people I am told. Just make sure you research it well before jumping into the or room.


This is nothing but torture and does not fix the Cause of the pain. This also does not stop weakness and spasms of the muscles and tendons, and does not stop the pain.