Whiplash, sustained in a car accident or truck accident, can cause severe neck pain. If imaging shows no neck injury, your doctor will first recommend treatment through non-invasive measures. These treatments offer remediation for soft tissue injuries and include:
- behavior modification
- physical therapy
- chiropractic adjustment
- injections into the joint
If the pain does not abate through any of these standard, conservative measures, in all likelihood you have sustained a facet joint injury. Facet joint injuries can cause severe pain even when no injury is evident on an MRI.
About Facet Joints
The spine is comprised of facets joints. They facilitate movement. There are two sets of facet joints at the back of each vertebra — one facing up, one facing down, and a joint on either side of each vertebra. Facet joints allow flexing, extending, and twisting motion. The interlocking nature of facet joints give the spine its stability.
Each facet joint is connected to two medial nerves that carry signals (including pain signals) away from the spine to the brain and the rest of the body.
How Radiofrequency Neurotomy Works
A radiofrequency neurotomy (RFN) is a type of injection procedure in which heat is used to injure specific nerves with the goal of killing the nerve. If the nerve is killed, it will interrupt the pain signals to the brain and eliminate the pain.
The doctor is able to pinpoint the exact nerve by using gentle electric pulses through a needle. When the painful nerve is found, it causes muscle twitches or tingling sensations. That confirms that the needle is precisely positioned next to the targeted spinal nerve branch.
Radiofrequency neurotomy provides relief from pain in about 75% of the cases. It is important to realize that RFN is a treatment, not a cure. The nerves will regenerate about every 11-12 months. The procedure will need to be repeated every year in order to maintain pain-free living.
Radiofrequency Neurotomy Complications
As with all medical procedures, there are possible complications with a radiofrequency neurotomy. Complications seldom occur with this procedure, but they could include:
- Pain around the injection site
- Numbness around the injection site
- Worsened pain due to muscle spasms in the area of the injection
- Permanent nerve pain
- Allergic reaction to medication
- Nerve or spinal cord injury
RFN is fairly expensive, ranging from $3,000 – $10,000 per treatment. Insurance companies will fight to keep from paying for this treatment. It is vital to have a spinal cord injury attorney with experience in radiofrequency neurotomy to receive optimal compensation.
This information is provided as a service of TSR Injury Law, a leading personal injury law firm serving Minneapolis and the entire state of Minnesota. Our partners are skilled litigators with years of experience handling spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and workplace injuries. Call 612-TSR-TIME or submit our free consultation form.