Medical procedure provides alternative to opioid use for neck and back pain

Local News

WEST JORDAN (News4Utah) – An alternative procedure to opioid use could be the answer for patients suffering from neck and back pain.

“We’re in an opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Craig Davis, interventional pain physician at Granger Pain & Spine. “Opioids affect mood, it affects depression. You can get what’s called opioid-induced hyperalgesia which is a term that describes increased pain from the opioid itself with chronic or long-term use.” 

It’s called radiofrequency ablation, a procedure heating the nerves that relays back pain messages to the brain coming from the joints in the neck or lower back.

“Radiofrequency ablation gives us a non-opioid alternative to treat back and neck pain after patients have tried and utilized other conservative therapies like non-steroidal inflammatories, physical therapy, stretching, ice, and rest,” said

Dr. Davis has been practicing in Utah for seven years and said that although the procedure can have extraordinary results, it’s not for everyone.

“You don’t take every back pain and do an ablation. It has to be clinical suspicion and tests would have to show that this is facet-mediated pain,” said Dr. Davis.

But if the patient is determined to be a good candidate for the procedure, Dr. Davis said the risks are minimal.

“It doesn’t make it so you can’t feel pain and it doesn’t make it so you can overextend your back to a degree that it’s going to cause things to get worse,” said Dr. Davis. “The risk with radiofrequency ablation is a very small risk because it’s outside of the spinal cord and spinal canal.”

Sam Starnes, one of Dr. Davis’ patients has lived pain-free for two years thanks to radiofrequency ablation.

He said he was suffering from back pain for about six months and wanted to avoid using opioids at all costs.

“It was frustrating. I thought, ‘Am I going to have to live with this pain for the rest of my life?'” said Starnes. “I tried heat. I tried ice. I tried muscle relaxers. I tried ibuprofen. None of those seem to work.”

Starnes found Dr. Craig Davis at Granger Pain & Spine in 2016, who recommended radiofrequency ablation.

“At the time, the pain was so severe, I was willing to try whatever Dr. Davis thought would help me,” said Starnes.

His procedure took approximately 15 minutes and said his back pain went away immediately.

“I felt like my life had been renewed. It was wonderful,” said Starnes.

If you are interested in radiofrequency ablation after exhausting conservation methods for neck and back pain, Dr. Davis recommends talking to your physician about the procedure.

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