Dr. Tural's health blog

Suprascapular Nerve Radiofrequency Ablation: An Effective Solution for Chronic Shoulder Pain

 Chronic shoulder pain can have a significant impact on your quality of life, making even simple tasks difficult. Fortunately, there are several pain management techniques available to help alleviate this discomfort. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the suprascapular nerve is a minimally invasive procedure that is gaining popularity as an effective treatment for chronic shoulder pain.

What is suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation?

Suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive intervention to treat chronic shoulder pain by interrupting pain signals from the suprascapular nerve. The suprascapular nerve provides sensory and motor function to the shoulder joint. In cases of chronic shoulder pain, such as osteoarthritis, rotator cuff injury or adhesive capsulitis, the nerve can become a source of persistent discomfort. RF ablation disrupts the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals, offering relief to patients.

Suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation for chronic shoulder pain

Indications for suprascapular nerve RF ablation

Suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation is indicated for patients with chronic shoulder pain that has not responded to conservative treatments such as physiotherapy, medications and corticosteroid injections. It is often used to treat conditions such as rotator cuff tears, adhesive capsulitis and osteoarthritis. Other conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis and post-surgical pain that do not respond to conventional treatment may also benefit from this procedure.


Suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation is a safe and effective procedure for patients with chronic shoulder pain. However, it is contraindicated in patients with active infection, bleeding disorders, allergy to local anaesthetics, and pregnancy. It should also be avoided in patients who are unable to cooperate during the procedure and in those with severe neurological deficits or weakness in the supraspinatus or infraspinatus muscles, as there is a theoretical risk of weakness in these muscles after the procedure.

How is it performed?

Diagnostic nerve blocks

Before the radiofrequency ablation procedure, diagnostic nerve blocks are performed to confirm that the suprascapular nerve is the source of the patient’s pain. During this procedure, the nerves thought to be causing the pain are temporarily blocked or numbed. This is to determine and confirm that these nerves are responsible for the pain. This relief should only last for about 5-8 hours.

Suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation is usually an outpatient procedure performed by an interventional pain specialist. Here is an overview of the procedure:


The patient is positioned comfortably and the procedure area is cleaned and sterilised.

Local anaesthetic

A local anaesthetic is administered to numb the area around the injection site, ensuring patient comfort throughout the procedure.

Guided needle placement

Under fluoroscopic or ultrasound guidance, a specialised radiofrequency needle is inserted near the suprascapular nerve. The fluoroscope or ultrasound helps the physician visualise the placement of the needle in real time.

Radiofrequency ablation

Once the needle is correctly positioned, radiofrequency energy is delivered through the needle, generating heat that deactivates the nerve. This disrupts the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals.

Post-procedure monitoring

After the procedure, patients are monitored for a short period to ensure there are no immediate complications or adverse reactions.

Complications of suprascapular nerve RF ablation

Complications associated with radiofrequency ablation of the suprascapular nerve are rare, but may include minor bleeding, infection, damage to nearby nerves, temporary pain or discomfort, allergic reactions, and weakness in the supraspinatus or infraspinatus muscles after the procedure.

Follow-up after the procedure

Usually, patients are discharged the same day as the procedure and can resume normal activities within a few days. Pain relief may take several weeks to become noticeable, and patients may require additional treatments in the future. Follow-up appointments with the treating physician are recommended to monitor the patient’s progress and ensure that there are no complications.

Suprascapular nerve radiofrequency ablation is a valuable option for patients suffering from chronic shoulder pain when conservative treatments have proven ineffective. This minimally invasive procedure can provide significant relief, improve quality of life and improve overall shoulder function. However, it is important for patients to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if they are a suitable candidate for this procedure and to receive personalised advice about the potential benefits and risks.