Radiofrequency treatment for back pain

Written by: Dr Yasser Mehrez
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Radiofrequency ablation is an emerging minimally invasive treatment for back pain that uses heat to interrupt pain signals in the spinal nerves. 

woman with back pain

Dr Yasser Mehrez is a leading consultant in pain medicine, anaesthesia and intensive care who offers this treatment to his patients suffering chronic back pain. We spoke to him to learn more about this treatment, the benefits and side effects and who is an ideal candidate to undergo it.

How does radiofrequency treatment for back pain work?

Radiofrequency ablation treatment helps relieve spinal pain caused by abnormal stress and strain on the muscles of the vertebral column. The treatment offers long-term pain relief for up to 18 months and is considered a more advanced treatment compared to standard injections. Patients who receive radiofrequency treatment experience much less pain afterwards, can exercise more and notice a significant improvement in their quality of life.

Radiofrequency is considered the newest treatment for joint pain, particularly after undergoing major joint replacement surgery such as a hip replacement. Furthermore, pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) treatment is an even newer and unique alternative which can provide pain relief, particularly for nerve and scar pain.

What does a typical session look like?

Patients have to go through an assessment beforehand to establish if they are suitable for this treatment. This will include various imaging, MRI scans, physiotherapy, etc. The treatment is a day procedure, so you won't need to stay overnight in the hospital. The treatment is performed under X-ray guidance, and you will usually be lightly sedated, so it's more comfortable.

You will typically attend in the morning, and the whole session takes around half an hour, depending on the condition. You will then need around 20 minutes to recover and will then be able to go back home if all goes well.    

How long does it take for radiofrequency treatment to start working?

We normally advise patients that it can take between two to four weeks for the pain to fully subside. However, you will usually start to notice your pain starting to resolve after a few days.

What are the benefits?

Following treatment, the vast majority of patients see a significant improvement in the quality of many aspects of their life. Patients generally experience the following:

  • a significant reduction in their level of pain
  • to be able to walk more, exercise more and return to playing sports
  • a much better night's sleep
  • a reduction in their use of medications
  • a general improvement in both their social and professional life

Who is an ideal candidate for this procedure?

The ideal candidate is someone who has been diagnosed with moderate to severe mechanical spinal pain that starts in the facet joints. These people generally complain of spinal pain, don't respond well to physiotherapy and their symptoms are affecting their quality of life.

Another ideal candidate might be someone who has undergone joint surgery such as hip replacement and is experiencing persistent joint pain. Additionally, patients who experience treatment-resistant pain after spinal surgeries would also benefit as their treatment options following these procedures are quite limited.

Are there any side effects?

It is generally a very safe procedure and many new techniques have been developed to improve its safety. Before undergoing this procedure, we warn patients of the slight discomfort and pain they might experience after which can last two to six weeks. This pain, however, is generally easily manageable with the use of simple painkillers. Further complications are very uncommon.

Patients will receive information and are encouraged to ask questions during the consultations. The British Pain Society and Faculty of Pain Medicine explains everything in regards to the side-effects, which we will also explain to you before the procedure.



The vast majority of patients who undergo radiofrequency treatment report that they notice a significant improvement in their pain. It is important to note it is not a permanent cure; it is normal for the pain to return after around 18 months - this is not due to the failure of treatment. When patients' pain does come back, they opt for this treatment again knowing that this has helped them more in comparison to other short-acting interventions.

If you are interested in this treatment, visit Dr Yasser Mehrez's Top Doctors profile and book a consultation to see him.

By Dr Yasser Mehrez
Pain medicine

Dr Yasser Mehrez is a leading consultant in pain medicine, anaesthesia and intensive care. He currently practices at his NHS and private clinic in Milton Keynes where he treats all types of chronic pain using advanced techniques such as fluoroscopic and ultrasound guided interventional pain management procedures. Dr Mehrez leads a team of clinicians, psychologists, physiotherapists and nurses to deliver a high standard multidisciplinary pain service to his patients.

He has a special interest in treating back, neck, joint and facial pain, post-surgical scar pain, neuropathic pain and cancer pain using minimally invasive procedures. These include epidural injections, pulsed radiofrequency treatments, neuromodulation, removal of epidural adhesions and many more. Dr Mehrez ensures his patients receive the best long-term pain relief using a range of sophisticated medicines and techniques.

Dr Mehrez spent most of training in major institutions. He has gained extensive experience in pain medicine including multidisciplinary planning through working closely with other specialties. For example he has started joint clinics with the spinal surgical team,  joint efforts with urology teamed also primary care teams to allow the patient to clear understanding of their treatment options and to access the agreed line of treatment in timely manner. Dr Mehrez uses up to date treatments and technology to help his patients to benefit from advances in the growing specialty of pain medicine.

Dr Mehrez was trained at South Thames School in London; he spent a year at Guy’s and St Thomas' Hospital Pain Management Centre practicing the most advanced techniques in neuromodulation and pain management. He now works as a Lead Clinician at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS trust, at his private clinic and teaches as an honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Buckingham Medical School. He is also a professional member of the Neuromodulation Society of the United Kingdom and Ireland, The British Pain Society and the International Association for the Study of Pain.

He is actively involved in the day-to-day running and strategic planning for the pain services in Milton Keynes. He is continuously involved in planning and redesigning the pain service in the area by advising, communicating and educating the services in the community. He is also in charge of monitoring pilot community pain services and introduced patient information booklets and various leaflets currently used at the clinic. He's actively involved in the education of his junior colleagues, general practitioners, nursing staff and most importantly, his patients.

For information leaflets on individual treatments, please use the search function on the Royal College of Anaesthetists website (link in websites below).

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