What’s the Frequency, Doc?

Radiofrequency treatment alleviates stubborn, arthritis-related back, neck pain.

Robert Shank remembers the day, April 15, 1966, as if it were yesterday. It was, after all, the day he suffered through one of the worst tragedies of his life, a tragedy that sparked a battle with nagging back pain that lasted more than 50 years.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Robert’s 50-year ordeal with nagging
back pain is finally at an end.

“I was driving from my home in Norfolk, Virginia when it happened,” Robert, now 80, remembers. “I was on my way to work, working the night shift for what was then the Norfolk and Western railroad. Now, it’s the Norfolk and Southern.
“I was traveling down the same road I always traveled to work, the same road I’d traveled home on that same morning. What I didn’t realize was that during the day, a four-foot trench had been dug in the road.”
Unaware of the construction that had occurred, Robert drove straight into the ditch. The impact of the horrific crash left him with six shattered ribs, a severed bronchial tube and fractured vertebrae in his upper back.
“I was in pretty bad shape,” Robert relates. “I was laid up for a good two or three months. Because of all the injuries, there was a lot of work that had to be done to get me back on me feet again.”
Robert eventually recovered enough to return to work, but not before a nagging and ever-increasing pain in his upper back and right shoulder became a constant companion that he would carry with him well into his 70s.
“The back problem crept up not long after the accident, and for the longest time, I thought the problem was in my shoulder because that’s where it hurt the most,” Robert explains. “It turns out, though, that pain has a way of sometimes disguising itself.
“I found that out because I eventually went to an orthopedic surgeon who took x-rays and discovered that the shoulder wasn’t the problem. After that, I tried everything from neurosurgeons to chiropractors, but none of them could cure me of the pain.”
Making matters worse was the fact that, as he aged, Robert developed arthritis in his lower back as well as a kidney problem that prompted his primary care physician to prohibit him from taking anti-inflammatory medicines that would ease his back pain.
It was during a recent visit to that primary care physician, however, that Robert finally found the solution to his suffering that he’d long sought. He found it in an article about McGreevy NeuroHealth in Palm Coast Health Care News.

Signal Interrupted

“When Robert first came to us, we reviewed his MRI and examined him. It became clear rather quickly that his pain worsened with changes in position, which is classic for arthritis,” explains Kai McGreevy, MD, a board-certified pain management specialist.
“He had difficulty getting from sitting to standing positions without suffering significant back pain, and he had taken on a posture of being hunched over as well. All of it was limiting his mobility and making it difficult for him to engage in activities of daily living.
“He was suffering from common wear and tear arthritis, but it’s common that trauma to the spine, such as that which he suffered during the car accident, can hasten the arthritis. We decided the best course of action for long-term treatment was radiofrequency ablation.”
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a nonsurgical procedure that doctors consider highly effective in temporarily reducing the kind of severe back and neck pain that plagues nearly two-thirds of the world’s population.
During the treatment, 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 that impedes the conveyance of pain signals to the brain, thereby reducing discomfort in the troubled area.

“The results have been absolutely amazing. My only wish is that I had found out about it sooner. It’s been an absolute blessing for me.” – Robert

“When we’re doing this 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. That’s how we can see all the landmarks we need to see to safely perform the procedure,” Dr. McGreevy relates.
“A local anesthetic is then administered to the skin and the 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. That generator provides ninety seconds of radiofrequency waves, or energy, that are delivered to the targeted nerve and create the lesion that cauterizes the nerve.”

Pain Wiped Away

Dr. McGreevy first administered two diagnostic test blocks to determine the potential effectiveness of the radiofrequency treatments. When Robert experienced what Dr. McGreevy describes as “remarkable relief” during the tests, Dr. McGreevy proceeded with the RFA treatment.
The pain management specialist performed a cervical radiofrequency ablation aimed at reducing the pain in Robert’s upper back, neck and right shoulder, as well as a lumbar radiofrequency ablation aimed at reducing the pain in his lower back.
In both cases, Dr. McGreevy targeted the facet nerves. These medial branch nerves are connected to the facet joints on the back of the spine. The facet joints are what allow the spine to move as we perform tasks such as bending forward or backward, or reaching for something.
Within a couple of weeks, Robert experienced an 80-percent reduction in his pain, Dr. McGreevy reports, and he has sustained that comfort level ever since.
“I was at a point where I didn’t think I could do anything for my pain,” Robert relates. “I was ready to give up. But then I found Dr. McGreevy, and I’m so glad I did. Since I went to see him, I’ve been feeling great. The pain has been wiped away, and it’s been almost a year now.”
The results of the radiofrequency ablation procedures that Robert received are not uncommon. Dr. McGreevy says it’s typical for patients who undergo the procedure to continue to benefit from it for nine to 12 months.
“RFA has been around for a while and as far as pain management is concerned, it’s definitely one of the most effective treatments we have to offer,” Dr. McGreevy informs. “It’s usually the most consistently helpful of the interventions that we do.
“Now the peripheral nerves do have the ability to regenerate, and if that occurs and a new connection is made, the pain signal can return. But in cases like that, we can simply repeat the procedure.”
Robert says he will not hesitate to go through the procedure again should he feel it necessary. He says he considers himself lucky to have found
Dr. McGreevy, whom he credits for ridding him of a problem he thought he’d suffer with forever.
“This was my last chance to get rid of the pain I’d dealt with for so long. The results have been absolutely amazing. My only wish is that I had found out about it sooner,” Robert raves. “It’s been an absolute blessing for me.”

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    • 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. The American Board of Independent Medical Examiners also certifies him. His medical training includes completion of a neurolog... Read More