Heat Wave

Nonsurgical technique ends back and neck pain.

Born in England, Louise Stout, 50, moved to the United States in 1993 and officially became a US citizen in 2006. After relocating to Crescent City from South Florida in 2010, Louise semi-retired from her career in the restaurant business. Her job as a hostess meant long shifts on her feet, which may have contributed to the back pain she battled for years.

Dr. Kai McGreevy of McGreevy NeuroHealth in Palm Coast and St. Augustine treated Louise Stout’s back pain and Noreen Acheson’s neck pain with radiofrequency ablation.

Louise Stout

“There was no incident or injury I remember that initiated my back problems,” Louise elaborates. “The pain just came on gradually. Back in 2011, I went to my doctor, who sent me for an MRI of my back. The doctor discovered I had scoliosis and arthritis in my spine.

“Whenever I stood, I got really bad backaches, but they were never so bad I couldn’t function. Then I developed sciatica, which sent pain down the side of my leg. The sciatica was originally on my right side, then it switched to my left side.”

The discomfort in Louise’s back continued to get worse over time, but the pain down her left leg became agonizing. Her combined back and leg pain eventually started interfering with her everyday tasks.

“The pain was excruciating when the sciatica switched to my left side,” Louise discloses. “When I got out of bed and put my feet on the floor, it really hurt. Sleeping was difficult because the pain made me very uncomfortable. It hurt to walk because the pain shot right through my leg.

“I’ve always been active, but I had to cut back to the point I could hardly do anything. I like to exercise and stretch, but I couldn’t do it because of my back pain. The pain was generally a seven or eight on a scale of one to ten.”

Louise continued to see her physician. She also tried chiropractic treatments and physical therapy, but nothing worked for her. In 2017, she visited an orthopedic surgeon who made a suggestion Louise wasn’t ready for.

“The doctor said he could fuse my vertebrae, and that would help with the scoliosis,” she relates. “But that’s quite a drastic event for me to go through, especially at my age, so the doctor suggested a few other options. One of them was injections into my back. I decided to go with that rather than surgery, so the doctor recommended Dr. McGreevy.”

Kai McGreevy, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and pain management specialist at McGreevy NeuroHealth, which has offices in Palm Coast and St. Augustine. Dr. McGreevy uses a wide range of advanced therapies to treat pain and many other conditions associated with nerve disorders.

“Louise came to us as a referral from a local orthopedic surgeon who was treating her spinal arthritis and scoliosis,” Dr. McGreevy notes. “She presented with low back pain that radiated into her lower extremities.

“We started treatment with epidural injections into her spine, which gave her moderate relief. However, she was still relying on narcotic medication to support her pain relief. She expressed a desire to get off the medication completely, if possible.”

In some cases, Dr. McGreevy prescribes narcotic pain medication to help his patients manage their pain. He emphasizes that pain medication is only one tool in his chest of treatments, and he uses the drugs with caution.

“We always do what’s in the best interest of the patient’s health as a whole,” Dr. McGreevy stresses. “Opioids have a place in the treatment of different pain conditions, but there’s always a double-edged sword with those types of treatments, so we provide alternatives. Reducing the risk while still providing pain relief is our ultimate goal.

“Louise was very motivated to come off of the medication, which became one of our treatment objectives.”

“Even though the dose I was on was minimal, I didn’t want pain medication to become a normal part of my life,” Louise confides. “It was a personal thing. I didn’t want to become addicted. I didn’t want to take pain pills for the rest of my life.

“Every time I saw Dr. McGreevy, I’d say, I just want to get off of this medication. That was my goal.”

After receiving limited results from the nerve blocks he also tried in treating Louise’s back pain, Dr. McGreevy switched gears and treated her arthritis specifically with radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, which uses heat to deaden the nerves responsible for pain.

“That seemed to be the game changer for her,” the doctor reports.

Transmissions Interrupted

RFA is often used for patients who have not received sustained pain relief from other treatments, including epidural steroid
injections
, facet joint injections and nerve blocks. In many cases, RFA is the best fit to improve patients’ pain control, range of motion and quality of life.

Dr. Kai McGreevy of McGreevy NeuroHealth in Palm Coast and St. Augustine treated Louise Stout’s back pain and Noreen Acheson’s neck pain with radiofrequency ablation.

Louise is living an active, pain-free lifestyle

RFA is a minimally invasive, nonsurgical,outpatient procedure during which patients remain awake but are generally sedated to minimize discomfort and reduce anxiety. Doctors consider it highly effective in temporarily reducing the kind of severe back and neck pain that plagues nearly two-thirds of the world’s population.

During RFA, radio waves are used to produce heat that is delivered through a probe to a group of specified spinal nerves. The heat creates a lesion, or wound, on the nerve tissue that interferes with the transmission of pain signals to the brain, thereby reducing discomfort in the troubled area.

By targeting and damaging the specific nerves responsible for carrying pain signals, RFA can effectively reduce or eliminate a patient’s pain for a few months or even years.

“There are many chronic pain conditions that respond well to radiofrequency ablation,” Dr. McGreevy asserts. “These include spinal arthritis and spine degeneration, as well as pain after spine surgery.”

Dr. McGreevy details the steps of the RFA procedure:

“When we’re doing the RFA procedure, the patient lies on a table on their belly, and an x-ray camera is used to take pictures of the region we’re working on,” he describes. “That’s how we can see all the landmarks we need to safely perform the procedure.”

A local anesthetic is then administered to the skin and deeper tissues to provide comfort so that a needle can be inserted and directed toward the targeted nerves. When the needle is precisely positioned, a stylet is pulled out of the needle and replaced by a thin probe.

“The probe is directed to the targeted nerve, and a radiofrequency generator is turned on,” Dr. McGreevy continues. “That generator provides ninety seconds of radio-frequency waves, or energy, that are delivered to the targeted nerve and create the lesion that cauterizes the nerve.”

When the nerve is cauterized, it can’t send pain signals, so nothing is received and interpreted by the brain. Subsequently, no return message to feel pain is sent back to the affected area of the body.

“When I first went to see Dr. McGreevy, I had no idea this was an option for me, so when he suggested it, I said, Great. When can we start? Louise relates. “And as it turns out, the radiofrequency ablation treatment was relatively easy.

“It’s nonsurgical, and I was in and out. It made me jump a little bit, but it wasn’t painful. I’m not one who can be in a lot of pain, and I handled it with no problem. The best thing about it, of course, is that it worked.

“It probably took two to three weeks for the treatment to really take effect, but then it started kicking in. When I went back to see Dr. McGreevy a few weeks later, I told him I hardly even think about the pain anymore. It’s completely gone.”

Degenerating Discs

Noreen Acheson spent years as a registered nurse, and although she’s 77 and primarily retired, she continues to keep her nursing license active in her native Pennsylvania. She worked in long-term care most of her career, which means she often moved patients who were largely incapacitated. It really wasn’t a surprise to her doctor when she began having pain in her cervical spine.

“About ten or eleven years ago, I started having some difficulty in my neck and shoulders,” she remembers. “I went to multiple doctors and was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease of the neck.Dr. Kai McGreevy of McGreevy NeuroHealth in Palm Coast and St. Augustine treated Louise Stout’s back pain and Noreen Acheson’s neck pain with radiofrequency ablation.

“I had a lot of pain in my neck, and it really hurt every time I moved. I couldn’t turn my head. I couldn’t walk with my head up. I couldn’t lift up my arms without pain. I dance with a senior dance group, and it was getting more and more difficult to do the dances because of the neck pain. Sometimes, I couldn’t even sit without resting my head on something.

“My neck just ached and hurt. The pain level was easily a six or seven out of ten.”

Over the years, Noreen tried many treatments for her neck pain, but none brought her significant relief. She eventually became frustrated with the unsuccessful attempts to ease her pain.

“I did physical therapy, took pain pills, got the shots, everything,” she shares. “Finally, last September, I said to my primary care physician, I can’t tolerate this anymore. Who do you recommend? He
recommended Dr. McGreevy.

“Noreen had severe arthritis in the facet joints in her neck, which caused discomfort to the point her quality of life was impacted,” the doctor relates. “Her range of motion was limited so that it was difficult for her to engage in simple activities, such as driving. She couldn’t turn her head to look around when she drove.

“After examining Noreen, reviewing her imaging and performing some diagnostic testing, I determined that she was a good candidate for RFA.”

“When Dr. McGreevy and I talked about the radiofrequency ablation procedure, he explained to me that the relief can last twelve to eighteen months. I agreed to it because I hadn’t been pain free for more than a decade. In April, he started with one side of my neck. A week later, he did the other side.”

“The cervical region is a complicated area, and many times, patients with arthritis in the neck also have pain into the shoulders, arms and up into the back of the head,” Dr. McGreevy explains. “This syndrome can be very complex, and Noreen responded even better than I expected, with reduction not only in her neck pain but also in her headaches.”

Fruitful Solutions

For Louise and Noreen, Dr. McGreevy’s expertise in neurology and pain management provided a fruitful solution to their back and neck pain in the form of radio-frequency ablation. Louise is pleased with the progression of her pain relief after RFA.
Dr. McGreevy is especially happy because Louise also conquered her reliance on pain medication.

Dr. Kai McGreevy of McGreevy NeuroHealth in Palm Coast and St. Augustine treated Louise Stout’s back pain and Noreen Acheson’s neck pain with radiofrequency ablation.

For Noreen, even hobbies are easier to do without neck pain

“As I started feeling better, I began cutting back on the amount of pain medication I was taking,” Louise recounts. “Eventually, I got to the point where I knew I didn’t need to take the pills anymore. About two months after my radiofrequency ablation procedure, I was completely off of the pain medication. I achieved my goal.

“My pain level used to be an eight. Now, it’s down to zero, and I’m sleeping great and walking and exercising again. I’m doing about eighty percent of what I used to, but that’s just because of the scoliosis. I can’t exercise as hard as I used to.”

“Louise’s RFA was particularly successful because she’s doing the things she wants to do without pain,” Dr. McGreevy observes. “She’s become more functional, but more importantly, she’s no longer relying on medication for pain relief. A large part of her success was her motivation to get better.”

The RFA procedures were equally effective for the arthritis pain in Noreen’s neck. In targeting the cervical nerves, they provided her with significant relief, which enabled her to move her head to drive, dance and do other activities without difficulty.

“I’ve been pain free since I had the radiofrequency ablation procedures,” she enthuses. “I can lift up my arms. I can walk with my head up. I can do things I didn’t think I’d ever do again as far as exercises and activities. I’m so pleased.

“The joke is I wake up every morning and wonder if I’m alive because nothing hurts anymore. I realize the pain can come back, but Dr. McGreevy released me for six months. That to me is such a blessing.”

Noreen rates the staff at McGreevy NeuroHealth as professional, friendly and helpful. She says they’re “great.” However, she saves her kindest words for Dr. McGreevy.

“Dr. McGreevy is so personable, professional and caring, and unlike some doctors I find at my age, he’s not condescending, saying things like, It’s alright. You’re going to be fine,” Noreen offers. “He really wanted me to get better, and that meant all the
world to me.

“I’ve already recommended him. I’ve taken flyers from McGreevy NeuroHealth and given them out to people because Dr. McGreevy does such a good job with his patients. He does his best to fix whatever happens to be wrong. He helped me and gave me a better quality of life.”

Louise is enjoying her life without pain as well, and like Noreen, she knows it can come back. She says she’ll call on
Dr. McGreevy again if that happens.

“Dr. McGreevy told me everyone is different; the pain can come back in some people, and in others, the relief can last a long time,” she states. “If my pain comes back, I’m going back to McGreevy NeuroHealth and getting another radiofrequency ablation treatment. If this one keeps me good for a year or two, I’ll be very happy.

“The staff at McGreevy NeuroHealth is very nice, very friendly. Dr. McGreevy is absolutely great. He’s very personable. When I first met him, he wanted to know exactly what was going on with me, what sort of pain I was in and where it was located. At the time, I was in a lot of pain, but he understood what I was going through.

“I highly recommend Dr. McGreevy and McGreevy NeuroHealth, and I certainly recommend radiofrequency ablation. It’s the best thing I could’ve done. And the fact that I didn’t have to have surgery is amazing to me.”

Print This Article
    • McGreevy Neuro Health

      Your neurological health is nothing to worry about when you visit McGreevy NeuroHealth, conveniently located between Saint Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida. Their facility hosts a qualified interventional pain physician who is also a board-ce... Read More

    • Kai McGreevy, MD

      Kai McGreevy, MD, is board certified in neurology and pain medicine by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. His medical training includes completion of a neurology residency at the University of California, San Diego, and an interven... Read More