Hot shot for back pain

December 6, 2010 2:47:11 PM PST
An outpatient-based solution may now be available to soothe lower back 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," Barbara Koscielski said.

Pain sprouted in her lower back, her "say-cro-illi-ac" 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.

Eighty-five percent of all American adults suffer from back pain, with up to 20 percent victims of Sacro-iliac pain.

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

Mercy Medical Center's Dr. David Maine tried a new procedure called r-f-a, or radio-frequency ablation on Barbara.

"What we're basically trying to do is take away the sensory nervous system supply to that joint," David Maine, MD Center for Interventional Pain Medicine Mercy Medical Center Baltimore, said.

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," Maine said.

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.

Barbara was out of the hospital the same day, back moving within two more. The best part of being up-right again? Sitting down with a good book.

"It was a really good feeling, very nice," she said.

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.