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NUFFIELD HEALTH: ‘Cool’ new procedure
eases arthritis pain without surgery

We all experience pain. It’s a part of being human. But persistent pain afflicts 1 in 6 adults. Left unmanaged, it impacts more and more on the sufferers’ overall quality of life. Social and professional activities are limited, and even the ability to perform the basic daily tasks of living becomes restricted. That is why Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield runs a dedicated pain management clinic to help with these kinds of problems.

Pain is an all-encompassing term that covers anything from a mild discomfort to an intense or debilitating agony. Acute pain is short-term, begins suddenly and is usually sharp. It can be caused by broken bones, burns or cuts, surgery, dental work or childbirth, and can be mild and over within minutes, or more severe, lasting for weeks. In these instances, if it goes untreated, it may lead to chronic pain.

Chronic pain is long-term, and lasts over 12 weeks. It may derive from an initial trauma, injury or infection, but it might also occur when no obvious cause can be found, when it is thought to be due to changes in the nervous system. It can affect any part of the body and people of any age, including children, and its physical effects may include tense muscles, limited mobility, lack of energy, and changes in appetite. Common chronic pain complaints include lower back pain, neck pain, joint pains, headaches, and neuropathic pain (pain from injured nerves).

People who suffer with chronic pain are very often left with a sense of frustration and helplessness at the apparent lack of treatment options available, and a lack of information about their problem. They may also be suffering side effects from pain killers that could only have a 1 in 3 chance of providing effective relief.

There is an alternative to this. At Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, our Pain Clinic gives access to a multidisciplinary team of specialists using proven treatments to combat the causes of a patient’s problem. Treatments can include injections to deliver medicine or, if suitable, radiofrequency therapy to the site of pain with a proven track record of success and safety for the particular problem.

Cooled radiofrequency denervation treatment

One such radiofrequency therapy technique can offer hope to sufferers of arthritic joint pain in the hips or knees who, for whatever reason, are unable to undergo surgery. Not only are there associated risks to some older patients with major surgery such as a hip or knee replacement, some people simply prefer a non-surgical option, and radiofrequency treatment could prove to be a successful alternative in this instance.

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that affects the joints. It is estimated that over 4 million people in the UK have osteoarthritis of the knee, while a further 2.5 million suffer from osteoarthritis of the hip. Cooled radiofrequency denervation treatment – also known as cooled radiofrequency ablation – is a relatively new, non-invasive procedure which can be used to relieve pain in both cases, and successful treatment could result in pain relief lasting several months, maybe as long as a year.

Marketed as “Coolief”, this treatment uses radiofrequency to target and mute the nerves responsible for sending pain signals from the arthritic joint to the brain. Coolief doesn’t repair the arthritis, but eases the pain, helping patients return to activities without discomfort and with less medication. 

One 2016 study compared Coolief to popular cortisone injections, with patients reporting greater, longer-lasting pain relief with the new treatment than with injections. The treatment is usually carried out on an outpatient basis, and is a two-step procedure. The first is a diagnostic injection of local anaesthetic to test the patient’s reaction. If this produces a 50% reduction in the pain they have been experiencing, the cooled radiofrequency treatment is offered as the second step. This involves creating a heat lesion around the articular nerves, carrying painful impulses from the joint. 

Dr Murli Krishna and Dr Gareth Greenslade, Consultants in Pain Medicine practicing at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield, have both been using radiofrequency denervation in the treatment of pain for a number of years. In addition to the treatments they give, they will offer advice on the most appropriate medication regimes (complete with a discussion of any possible side effects), and access to the most effective physical therapies, ultimately providing patients with the knowledge and tools for a self-management care plan.

The Pain Clinic at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield can help with problems including back pain, Sciatica, neck pain, muscle and soft tissue pain, Fibromyalgia, sports injuries, and post-operative pain, as well as those already described. For more information, or to book a consultation, call us on 0117 911 5339 or visit our website: nuffieldhealth.com

Nuffield Health