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Facet Arthritis Syndrome Pain Management in Knoxville, TN

Facet Arthritis Syndrome Facet arthritis syndrome, also known as facet joint syndrome, is a slow-to-develop condition that affects the spine. Each of your vertebrae is supported by two facet joints. Around 16 million Americans suffer lower back pain so severe that they consult their doctor. Degeneration of the facet joints is a significant cause of back pain, with as many as 89% of US adults over 65 years old experiencing pain from facet arthritis syndrome. However, because degeneration starts from 15 years old, facet arthritis syndrome is a frequent cause of lower back pain in adults. This article discusses treating the condition with medial branch blocks followed by radiofrequency treatment, which is one of the treatment options for facet arthritis in Knoxville, TN area. Although degeneration of the facet joints is naturally occurring, it can be exacerbated by various other problems, such as trauma from an accident, osteoarthritis, or spinal stenosis. The purpose of the facet joints is to stabilize the spine allowing the spine to move forwards, backwards, sideways, and to twist. Due to degeneration, wear and tear, and/or injury, the joints become overgrown; what is known as arthritis a major cause of lower back pain and limited flexibility in people of all ages. Facet Arthritis syndrome is particularly problematic for the over 50s. In a recently updated report, Spine Health lists the percentages by age groups: 89% over 65s, 84% of 55-64 year olds, 48% of 45-54 year olds, and 36% of those below 44 years. Medial branch blocks are diagnostic injections used to determine if the facet joints are the source of the focal pain in the back. When pain relief is successful, then radiotherapy ablation, also known as radiotherapy neurotomy, may be a suitable treatment for long-term pain relief. Data from 454 patients regarding the efficacy of facet joint medial branch ablation was analyzed by Lee et al., in 2017. They studied 7 trials whereby 231 people underwent radiofrequency ablation, and the control group of 223 patients underwent placebo or epidural treatments. The analysis showed that the radiofrequency-treated patients showed significant back pain score improvements compared to the control patients.

How is Facet Arthritis Syndrome Treated

Treatment: medial branch blocks followed by radiofrequency ablation. The treatment starts as a two stage process utilizing medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation. When your pain specialist establishes that the pain may be from the facet joints, the next step is to use an injection known as a medial branch block to block the pain from the medial nerves. The medial branch block is a diagnostic tool to determine whether the pain is from the facet joints. When confirmed as facet joint pain, the second stage is treatment by radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation is considered a minimally invasive treatment. Radiofrequency ablation uses a radiofrequency needle to heat part of the nerve creating a lesion.

How it Works

Medial branch blocks stop the pain signals from the medial nerves that serve the facet joints. Anesthetic is injected to the medial nerves location, numbing them, and if the facet joints are the source of pain, the pain is stopped. Radiofrequency ablation prevents pain signals from reaching the brain. Practitioners use their skill to create the very small precise lesion in the nerves that are sending the pain signals. This small lesion disrupts the pain signal by destroying a small nerve section.

Benefits of the Treatment

Back pain is a highly debilitating complaint that disrupts all areas of your life. Some treatments involve invasive surgery and months of recovery time. Radiotherapy ablation offers many benefits over other treatments when back pain is caused by facet arthritis syndrome. First of all, the treatment is minimally invasive, and there is no general anesthetic required for radiofrequency treatments, which means that it has the convenience of being a part-day appointment at your pain specialist’s office that only takes a few hours from start to finish. As well as the minimal recovery time, mobility is improved, and some pain relief begins immediately, with the full benefit being noticed within the first three weeks. For most people, pain relief is effective for six months to around two years. Some clients never suffer any recurring pain. For those who do, the procedure can be repeated when required. Because a small, very specific area is targeted, the risk is minimal. Reliance on painkillers and steroid injections for your low back pain is removed. Successful radiofrequency ablation also means you avoid major surgery and the inconvenience of lengthy recovery times.

How Effective are Medial Branch Blocks and Radiofrequency Ablation

Because medial branch blocks are used to confirm diagnosis, radiofrequency ablation is highly targeted to specific pain sites and is extremely effective.

Side Effects of the Treatments

Sometimes those having medial branch blocks may encounter discomfort around the injection site. Bruising or hematoma at the injection site are rarely experienced but are possible. An infrequent occurrence is a temporary weakness or numbness in the legs or other areas that sometimes happens if the anesthetic spreads, it ceases after a few hours. Rarer still is diarrhea and abdominal pain, and the possibility of a flushed face from the steroid in the injection; again, this resolves within a short time. Another rare possibility is experiencing nerve damage. Serious side effects are infrequent, occurring in less than 1% of interventions. Side effects for radiofrequency ablation are rare. You may experience some bruising, swelling, or discomfort at the treatment location that cease within a few days.

Contraindications of Medial Branch Blocks and Radiofrequency Ablation

An existing infection at the procedure site, systemic infection, allergy to any ingredients, diathesis, substantial bleeding, and pregnancy are contraindications to medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation.

Cost of the Procedures

The cost of chronic pain to the US economy is enormous; on an individual level, back pain creates work limitations and loss of income from time off work. Also, on a personal level treating your back pain with a long-term solution and no longer needing to purchase painkillers is a cost-effective solution. A contribution or full payment of the cost of treatment is often covered by medical health insurance, depending on your medical insurance company. Your pain management specialist office usually contacts your insurance provider for confirmation and authorization before commencing treatment.

Where to Find a Doctor Who Provides Medial Branch Blocks and Radiofrequency Ablation

An online search is usually the best place to start when looking for doctors in your area. You can also ask family, friends, and coworkers for recommendations. Just make sure that the doctor you contact has experience with back pain management before you make an appointment. Another way to search is to contact an organization like The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). Ask them about the most suitable practice near your location. Facet arthritis syndrome can frequently be treated by a local pain management specialist. Of course, an excellent source of information, including finding a physician, is the directory, where you can search for physicians in or near your ZIP code. In Knoxville, facet arthritis syndrome has been professionally treated for many years at Omega Pain Doctor, a leading pain management clinic.


Confirmation of facet arthritis syndrome for your back pain through medial branch block is a starting point towards long-term relief from radiofrequency ablation when facet arthritis is to blame for your pain. These procedures are minimally invasive, highly effective, and convenient. Fortunately, if pain returns, you can repeat the treatment when required to maintain your quality of life and flexibility.

Treatment for Facet Arthritis in Knoxville, TN

People with facet joint arthritis often have co-existing medical conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, psoriatic arthritis, or gout, and will also have to receive treatment for these conditions in order to experience the best quality of life possible. If you are suffering from lumbar pain and suspect you may have facet arthritis, a Knoxville Omega Pain Management, a leading pain management clinic in Tennessee, may be able to help you improve your quality of life and manage your pain effectively. Contact Dr. Igor Smelyansky’s office to schedule a consultation. Phone (856) 337-5137


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Lee CH, Chung CK, Kim CH. The efficacy of conventional radiofrequency denervation in patients with chronic low back pain originating from the facet joints: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Spine J. 2017 Nov;17(11):1770-1780. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2017.05.006. Epub 2017 May 30. PMID: 28576500.

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