Comparison of intra-articular lumbar facet joint pulsed radiofrequency and intra-articular lumbar facet joint corticosteroid injection for management of lumbar facet joint pain: A randomized controlled trial

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This study aimed to demonstrate the effect of intra-articular (IA) lumbar facet joint (LFJ) pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) for the management of LFJ pain, and to compare the effect of IA LFJ PRF to IA corticosteroid injection (ICI). Pathology in the LFJ is a common source of lower back pain (LBP). It is responsible for chronic LBP in approximately 15% to 45% of patients. It has been reported that PRF stimulation can effectively reduce refractory joint pain.


Sixty patients with LFJ pain were recruited and randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: the IA PRF group and the ICI group. There were 30 patients in each group. At pretreatment, 2 weeks, 1, 3, and 6 months after treatment, we assessed the severity of LBP using a numeric rating scale (NRS).


Compared with the pretreatment NRS scores, patients in both groups showed a significant decrease in NRS scores at 2 weeks, and 1, 3, and 6 months after each treatment. Between groups, changes in the NRS scores were significantly different over time. At 2 weeks and 1 month after each procedure, the NRS score after ICI was significantly lower than that after the PRF stimulation. However, at 3 and 6 months after the procedures, the decrements of NRS scores were not significantly different between the 2 groups. Six months after treatment, about half of patients in both groups reported successful pain relief (pain relief of ≥50%).


In the current study, both IA PRF stimulation and ICI into the LFJ significantly relieved LFJ pain. Their effects persisted for at least 6 months after the procedure. Thus, IA PRF is a useful therapeutic option for the management of LFJ pain.

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