Chronic low back pain: applying electric current does not help says new research

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back pain, electric current, back arthritis, arthritis magazineTreating chronic low back pain with radiofrequency denervation, a procedure that is carried out with different techniques including applying an electric current to the pain-conducting nerve, results in little improvement, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Radiofrequency denervation is commonly used to treat lower back pain, despite a lack of evidence that it works.

So a team carried out three trials in 16 clinics in the Netherlands including people with chronic lower back pain who had been unresponsive to conservative care.

All 521 participants received a three- month exercise programme and psychological support as needed. Participants in the intervention group received radiofrequency denervation as well, which is usually as single procedure, but the maximum number of treatments in the trial was three.

The researchers found that two trials assessing radiofrequency denervation for the sacroiliac joints and a combination of the facet joints, sacroiliac joints, or intervertebral disks showed a statistically significant but not clinically important improvement in pain intensity three months after the intervention. No clinically important or statistically significant differences between the groups were shown in the trial assessing radiofrequency denervation for facet joint pain. They conclude:

“The findings do not support the use of radiofrequency denervation to treat chronic low back pain from these sources.”

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