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High Tech Targeting of Low Back Pain: August 29, 2013

The sacroiliac or SI joints connect the spine to the pelvis, and are frequently the source of a great deal of pain in the lower back and thighs. Targeting them for treatment is going high tech, with new tools fine-tuned for this location.

Using radio frequency to eviscerate sensory nerves is used as a last resort to alleviate chronic nerve pain in various parts of the body, but this area presented a challenge.

“People have been trying to ablate the nerves for 20-30 years. They’ve known which nerves supply the sacroiliac joint.  But the traditional radio frequency burn makes such a small lesion that there all these fingers branches that come off the joint and you really need to get them all,” says Dr. Andrew Gross, interventional pain specialist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Targeting these joints took a different approach, because of the finger-like branches that extend from them. To come up with a solution that would mean finding a way to affect as many nerves as possible, without damaging surrounding tissue. Using a bipolar delivery technique is one way to accomplish that.

“You position needles facing each other and actually create a current that flows up and down the joint and it actually creates a strip that burns off all those little nerve endings and will actually basically really make that block of taking out all those nerves,” says Dr. Gross.

Results don’t last a lifetime while these nerves are damaged they may grow back. But patients can expect their pain to drastically diminish for several years.