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New procedure helps zap away back pain w/heat

January 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Back pain can make every day a living agony, but a new procedure promises relief by using heat to zap away the pain.Barbara Koscielski loves the library, but until now, she couldn't sit and read to save her life.

"To sit was, you know, I couldn't sit, not for long periods," said Koscielski.

Pain sprouted in her lower back at her sacroiliac joint where the base of the spine meets the pelvis. When pain injections didn't work, she considered surgery.

"Things that people take for granted, I couldn't do," Koscielski said.

In America, 85 percent of adults suffer from back pain, and up to 20 percent of victims suffer from sacroiliac pain.

"I couldn't walk down to the end of the block," Koscielski said.

Pain specialist Dr. David Maine tried a new procedure called radio frequency ablation (RFA) on Koscielski.

"What we're basically trying to do is take away the sensory nervous system supply to that joint," said Maine.

A 6-inch probe is heated to 176 degrees and inserted through a small incision. It disrupts sensory nerves going into the joint. The idea is "no nerves, no pain."

"At 80 degrees Celsius, we think that we have a complete 'de-nervation' or destruction of those nerves," Maine explained.

Studies show one month after the procedure, 79 percent of patients had pain relief. Only 66 percent of people found relief with pain-killing injections.

"I could tell within a few days that that initial pain was gone," Koscielski said.

Koscielski was out of the hospital the same day and was back moving within two more days .

She said the best part of being upright again is sitting down with a good book.