BALTIMORE - Late last year, President Obama spent an additional $50 billion to stimulate the economy. Records show Americans spend that much money each year to soothe lower back pain. The good news, an outpatient-based solution may now be available.
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 Barbara Koscielski.
Pain sprouted in her lower back, 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," stated Koscielski.
Eight-five percent of all American adults suffer from back pain, with up to 20 percent victims of sacroiliac pain.
"I couldn't walk down to the end of the block," recalled Koscielski.
Mercy Medical center's Doctor David Maine tried a new procedure called RFA, or radio-frequency ablation on Koscielski.
"What we're basically trying to do is take away the sensory nervous system supply to that joint," said David Maine, M.D., Center for Interventional Pain Medicine at Mercy Medical Center.
This six-inch probe is heated to 176 degrees. Inserted through a small incision, it disrupts sensory nerves going into the joint. No nerves, no pain.
"At 80 degrees Celsius we think that we have a complete de-nervation, or destruction of those nerves," explained Dr. Maine.
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," added Koscielski.
Koscielski was out of the hospital the same day, back moving within two more. The best part of being up-right again was sitting down with a good book.
"It was a really good feeling, very nice," concluded Koscielski.
This past year marked the first time radiofrequency ablation was ever used on sacroiliac pain patients. People who don't respond to pain shots and physical therapy are typically eligible for this procedure.
BACKGROUND: According to the Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, about 80 percent of all Americans will suffer from back pain, including sacroiliac joint pain (SIJ), at some point in their lives. Sacroiliac pain can range from an ache to a sharp pain that can restrict movement. Classic symptoms are difficulty turning over in bed, struggling to put on shoes and socks, stiffness in the lower back when getting up after sitting for a long period and pain getting your legs in and out of the car.
SJI EXPLAINED: Causes of SIJ can be split into four categories: Traumatic, Biomechanical, Hormonal and Inflammatory joint disease. Traumatic injuries are caused when there is a sudden impact that 'jolts' the joint, like falling on your buttocks. This type of injury usually causes damage to the ligaments that support the joint. Pain due to biomechanical injuries usually develops over a period of time and often will increase with activity. For expectant mothers, the hormonal changes, extra weight and strain can cause SJI. With inflammatory joint disease when joints get affected, they become swollen, stiff and painful. Ankylosing Spondylitis is the most common inflammatory condition that causes inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones and the joints between the spine and pelvis. It eventually causes the affected spinal bones to join together. (SOURCE: Sports Injury Clinic)
RADIOFREQUENCY ABLATION: According to the National Institute of Health, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a safe and effective procedure to treat certain forms of pain, such as SIJ. Depending on the cause and location of the pain, relief from RFA can last from six to 12 months and in some cases, relief can last for years. More than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief. RFA has proven to be generally well-tolerated. The main side effect of RFA is some discomfort, including swelling and bruising, at the site of the treatment.
RFA PROCEDURE: After local anesthesia is administered, a small needle is inserted into the general area where pain is experienced. A microelectrode is then inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process. Once the needle and electrode are in place, a small radiofrequency current is sent through the electrode into the surrounding tissue, causing the tissue to heat and destroy the sensory nerves causing the pain. (SOURCE: WebMD)
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