Is Radiofrequency Ablation Painful?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
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Radiofrequency Ablation is just one modern vein treatment option. In comparison to the out-dated method of vein-stripping, this method is relatively painless and can be done safely in an outpatient environment.

Only a few decades ago, vein treatments were limited to ligation and vein stripping - painful procedures which required general anesthesia and hospitalization, as well as a few days of downtime. Today, there are many options when it comes to the treatment of varicose veins and vein disease, all of which can be safely performed in an out-patient environment. Patients are encouraged to resume normal activity the same day as their procedure.

Only a vein specialist can determine what method of treatment is right for you. One safe and proven method of treating varicose veins is through Radiofrequency Ablation.

Is Radiofrequency Ablation Painful?

The short answer: no.

However, pain is a subjective experience, so it would be blasé to assert no one will ever feel any bit of pain with radiofrequency ablation, but as someone who has had it done before and assisted in hundreds of these procedures, hear me out.

The skin is numbed with a few “pinches” (also have been described as “bee stings” and “rubber band snaps”) of a numbing medication, such as local anesthetic. Once the numbing medication is applied, a patient does not feel much of anything for the rest of the procedure, expect maybe some pressure here or there. If there is pain, it could be operator-dependent - that’s why choosing a practice that is experienced in such procedures, performing thousands of them, is important. A physician well-versed in Radiofrequency Ablation will ensure a pain-free procedure.

What About After the Procedure?

Immediately after the procedure, the treatment area will feel somewhat numb, and may look and feel a little swollen, but your leg is still able to function normally. Vein specialists usually encourage you to go on with the rest of your daily activities. Perhaps the worst part about the whole procedure is usually those annoying compression stockings - but they are important and greatly help the healing process, so please wear them if instructed.

The recovery period is also not painful and provides little disruption to your daily routine. The best way I can describe the sensation in the treatment area during the quick healing process is similar to a sunburn—a dull discomfort—that subsides in a week or so.

Some patients also have some bruising along the treatment area, which is completely normal.

What if I am Experiencing Discomfort?

Some things which can help ease the discomfort post-procedure are: wearing your compression stockings, maintaining your normal level of activity, elevating the leg for a few minutes a couple of times a day, applying cold compress, or—if absolutely needed—taking whatever pain relieving medication usually helps your aches and pains.

The complete healing process for the treated vein can take up to 4-6 months, as the body has to go through the process of turning that vein into scar tissue and then reabsorbing it. The vein shortens a bit as it heals, which can feel like a pulling sensation or “tight muscle”, but this is easily remedied with warm moist heat, massage, and stretching. Sometimes patients even feel a rope-like sensation where the vein was treated; this is also completely normal and part of the process of that vein turning into scar tissue. Not to worry, this tissue will soften over time, and before you know it you will forget it was ever there!

Your vein specialist will tell you when you can resume unrestricted activities, but typically it’s within a month. In the meantime, low-impact exercise and wearing your compression stockings will aid in the recovery and healing process. The majority of patients tell me that the most painful part of the procedure was the anticipation and anxiety leading up to it!

Seeing the Clinical Leaders will Ensure a Positive Experience

By scheduling treatment with the national, clinical leaders in vein care, Center for Vein Restoration, you will have been seen by a physician exclusively focused on veins. All of our board certified physicians nationwide are specially trained in all modalities of treatment and will perform thousands of procedures over their career. Additionally, our patient services center is always standing by if you have any symptoms that are worrisome or something just doesn’t feel right to you post-procedure.

Call 240-965-3915 to schedule or learn more.


Corrine Russo, PA-C is a physician assistant practicing at the Columbia (Columbia Parkway), Maryland Center for Vein Restoration location. She has worked with Dr. Calure for over five years, first while he was Medical Director of Maryland Vein Professionals, LLC, and then as he transitioned to partner with Center for Vein Restoration.

Ms. Russo is a graduate of the George Washington University Physician Assistant Program, and holds a MS in Health Services. She also has experience as a hospitalist at Anne Arundel Medical Center, a Surgical Technician, and as an EMT.

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