What is a Rhizotomy Graphic | Interventional Spine and Surgery Group
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Back pain is debilitating. It can adversely affect your quality of life and make it difficult to perform routine daily tasks. The good news, however, is that there is a procedure available to help manage and control your pain, and it’s called a rhizotomy.

What is a Rhizotomy?

A rhizotomy is a procedure which targets painful nerves in the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are found at each intervertebral segment, and they each contain a medial nerve. Medial nerves provide sensation to the joint; however, they can also be the source of significant pain when they’re inflamed or irritated in some way. The goal of the rhizotomy treatment is to “turn off” an irritated nerve at this location and stop it from sending pain signals from the inflamed facet joint to the brain.


Rhizotomy surgery is usually performed to decrease back pain and neck pain when it’s affecting a person’s quality of life. The procedure is a safe, effective, and minimally-invasive way to restore movement, reduce suffering, and help patients return to their daily activities. Nerve pain can be significant, and a rhizotomy can offer much needed relief.

Your rhizotomy surgeon will begin the procedure by guiding the placement of an electrode using fluoroscopy. Once that needle is in place, a mild electrical current stimulates the nerve to confirm its exact location. Then, the electrode is heated to deaden the sensory nerves, which is what stops the pain signals from traveling to the brain.

A rhizotomy is one of the least invasive procedures offered at the Interventional Spine & Surgery Group to relieve back pain. However, it will only be offered but is still an option only after conservative treatments have failed to bring relief to patients suffering from facet joint issues, like facet syndrome. Patients often benefit from a rhizotomy procedure when their pain is limited to one spot or region in the spine, and aren’t experiencing additional symptoms.


As rhizotomy is less invasive than many other back surgeries, it can be used to treat a wide range of nerve issues in the back and neck such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative spinal conditions
  • Disc herniations
  • Joint pain
  • Spasticity and pain caused by cerebral palsy
  • Trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain caused by trigeminal nerve irritation)

Your specialist can advise if rhizotomy surgery may be right for your condition.


The rhizotomy procedure is very quick, often lasting only a few minutes. Because of the anesthesia involved you will spend several hours in the surgical center’s recovery room. However, you should be up on your feet in a very short period of time; depending on how you react to the anesthesia, you could be back to full activity, including driving and going to work, in as little as one to two days.

That said, it’s not uncommon to have pain and swelling, or bruising, at the surgical site.


Like most procedures, rhizotomy can’t guarantee a 100% effectiveness rate. A portion of patients who undergo the surgery will receive little-to-no pain relief, and for others, the pain may return in coming years as the nerve regrows. However, these are a small percentage of the cases. When you consult with a rhizotomy surgeon, they can give you all of the information you need to know to make an educated choice about your surgery. The vast majority of patients who undergo the rhizotomy procedure experience pain relief that lasts.

To find out more about rhizotomy surgery, contact us today.