Mechano-transduction effect of shockwaves in the treatment of lumbar facet joint pain: comparative effectiveness evaluation of shockwave therapy, steroid injections and radiofrequency medial branch neurotomy.

OBJECTIVE: Lumbar facet joints (FJ) is a common source of low back pain and contributes approximmately on one third of chronic low back pain. Medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy is considered as a gold standard in the treatment of facet joint pain. Corticosteroid injections have also presented effect in FJ pain. As an interventional procedures, they carry not-negligible risk of possible complications including infection, damage to nerve root or medial branch structures. Shockwave therapy (SWT) is a non-invasive method for treatment of various musculoskeletal disorders. Its effect is based on transduction of mechanical energy, transferred to cascade of various biochemical processes in target tissue. Its efficacy was proved in the treatment of different painful conditions. The efficacy of SWT was not yet studied in FJ pain. Aim of our work was to compare the efficacy of SWT against interventional treatment procedures - radiofrequency neurotomy and corticosteroid FJ injections.

METHODS: A retrospective study was done on 62 selected patients with unilateral chronic lumbar facet pain. There were 32 women and 30 men, divided into SWT group, corticosteroid injections group radiofrequency group. Nociceptive and neuropathic pain intensity and severity of pain were measured.

RESULTS: Shockwave therapy had shown better longterm results compared to FJ injections group and little inferior efficacy compared to RMBN. We did not observe any adverse effects and complications in SWT group. Moreover, in SWT and RMBN groups, significant longterm improvement in daily activities limitation, was observed.

CONCLUSIONS: SWT appears to be a safe and perspective option in the treatment of FJ pain with negligible side effects.

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