by Adam Hedaya, MD

Whiplash refers to a neck injury when the head suddenly jerks backward and then forward, stretching neck muscles and ligaments outside their natural positions. In most cases, the symptoms of whiplash alleviate naturally in just a few weeks. Common causes of whiplash include car accidents, sports injuries, physical abuse, and repetitive stress injuries. Injuries can range from mild to severe and generally disappear after treatment from over-the-counter pain relievers and applied ice.

Unfortunately, whiplash can also create chronic neck pain that spreads to the shoulders and arms. Aside from debilitating pain, this injury is potentially dangerous, especially considering its proximity to the spine and head. Through radiofrequency ablation (RFA), patients can reduce arthritis pain and begin improving their quality of life. Pain relief can last up to 12 months, and 70 percent of patients report significant pain relief from RFA.

What Is Radiofrequency Ablation?

RFA is a procedure that interrupts nerve conduction for anywhere between 6 and 9 months on average, though results may vary based on the individual. Radio waves or electric currents are used to generate heat that blocks the nerves. The procedure is generally reserved only for those with neck or back pain as a result of serious arthritis or injury. Benefits of RFA include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Pain relief. A good block of the intended nerve results in welcomed pain relief that immediately improves quality of life. If pain lingers after the procedure, then it’s clear there may be other issues causing pain, which allows your physician to examine other sources of discomfort.
  • Convenience. Most RFA treatments can be completed within an hour. Some are as short as 20 minutes. This sterile technique has a minimal risk of infection and is virtually pain free after numbing the skin.
  • Low risk. The primary side effect of RFA treatments is swelling and bruising where the treatment was performed. It’s a non-surgical, safe treatment that has minimal risks for complications. Possible complications from medications or contrast dye used during RFA are extremely rare.

Pain relief after RFA isn’t always immediate, though this varies from person to person. In general, it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks for the full benefits to be felt. Since neck and back pain can disrupt your lifestyle and reduce quality of life, it’s critical to understand the options available to you for pain relief. Radiofrequency ablation is a safe, non-invasive procedure that contributes to a new, personalized approach to pain care.


Dr. Hedaya is the founding director of Cleveland Pain Care with locations in Beachwood and Concord. For more information, or to make an appointment call 440-306-3200.