Radiofrequency denervation, typically used to treat lumbar and cervical zygapophyseal joint pain, has shown efficacy in treating thoracic zygapophyseal joint pain, according to a study published in Pain Medicine. 

This observational study included 315 patients who were treated with radiofrequency denervation (lumbar region, n=178; cervical region, n=55; thoracic region, n=82). The treatments showed comparable improvements in quality of life ratings in at least 65% of patients for all 3 groups, improvements which were sustained for at least 1 year post-treatment for between 47% and 51% of study participants.

The participants eligible for study completion were 63% (n=200) women and had a mean age of 52 years (17 to 89 years; SD, 15.5 months). The 3 treatment groups had similar gender ratios, ages, and pain duration. Prior to treatment, participants had experienced pain for a mean of 121 months. The zygapophyseal joint pain treatment was the first for all study participants.

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Study limitations include a nonrandomized design and a lack of placebo group for control.

The authors concluded that “radiofrequency denervation of thoracic zygapophyseal joint pain is as effective as radiofrequency denervation, the standard treatment, for lumbar and cervical zygapophyseal joint pain. If these results can be confirmed by other centers, radiofrequency denervation is likely to become more widely available for the treatment of thoracic zygapophyseal joint pain.”

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Hambraeus J, Hambraeus KS, Persson J. Radiofrequency denervation improves health-related quality of life in patients with thoracic zygapophyseal joint painPain Med. 2018; 19(5):914-919. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx142