Radiofrequency Heat Halts Arthritic Pain

Nonsurgical ablation technique relieves excruciating back pain.

As a professional artist, Ron Reams is passionate about his painting and drawing. After seeing one of his pen-and-inks, a publishing company solicited him to illustrate a book while he was still in high school.

Ron is passionate about his art and hosts many one-man shows.

“The book is called American History in Verse,” elaborates Ron, 66. “It was written by John Van Duyn Southworth in 1976.”

Ron is a visual space designer as well as an artist, so he also renovates and designs homes.

“I keep busy with my painting, illustrating, designing and one-man shows,” he discloses.

Ron has experienced back problems since he was a teen. The issue was exacerbated by a serious back injury in 2001.

“I fell and landed on my back on a bunch of concrete blocks, crushing three vertebrae,” Ron describes. “The pain was terrible, a 10, sometimes an 11, on a scale of one to 10. The pain was like sciatica, and at one point I couldn’t walk at all. Eventually, I had back surgery.

“I also experienced pain in my neck that was so bad I couldn’t move my head to paint. The pain felt like a knife or an ice pick was scraping my bones. It was excruciating.”

Seeking relief, Ron called upon a friend, Lora L. Brown, MD. Dr. Brown is a double board-certified, Cleveland Clinic fellowship-trained interventional pain specialist at TruWell Health in St. Petersburg.

“Following a complete workup, we discovered Ron has arthritis in his spine,” Dr. Brown reports. “We performed diagnostic nerve blocks to determine which spinal joints were causing his pain. Once we identified the joints involved, we used radiofrequency ablation, a nonsurgical, extremely safe pain management technique, to eliminate his arthritis pain.”

When performing radiofrequency ablation, Dr. Brown first numbs the skin over the treatment area.

“We use a specially designed needle probe with a tip that heats up. We place the probe over the nerve providing sensation to the arthritic joint,” she details. “The heat creates a lesion on that sensory nerve. As a result, the nerve can no longer send pain signals to the brain, so the joint pain is relieved.”

The results from radiofrequency ablation aren’t permanent, however.

“The sheath covering the nerves remains intact, which allows the ends of the ablated nerve to regenerate,” Dr. Brown explains. “The time it takes for regeneration depends on the size of the lesion.

“In the past, the needle probes were antiquated and the lesions were small. If patients achieved six to eight months of pain relief, we considered the procedure a success.”

The newer technology, however, uses multipronged probes, which create larger lesions that result in a longer duration without pain.

“With today’s technology, patients average about two years of relief,” Dr. Brown asserts. “And when the pain returns, we simply repeat the procedure.”

With treatment, Ron’s pain level decreased dramatically, and he returned to an active lifestyle.

“I have zero pain now,” he raves. “I walk every day, and I’m fine as long as I exercise. If the pain comes back, I simply make an appointment at TruWell Health and visit Dr. Brown. She’s been keeping me upright since 2002.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb


As seen in South Pinellas County Edition of
Florida Health Care News

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    • TruWell Health

      TruWell Health is located in a professional medical building in downtown St. Petersburg. There is free parking and free valet service. Our office is elegant, warm, comfortable and modern, and we utilize the latest technology... Read More

    • Lora L. Brown, MD

      Lora L. Brown, MD, is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and American Board of Pain Medicine. She is also a fellow of the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Brown earned her bachelor’s degree cum laude from th... Read More