What is Spinal Cord Stimulation (Neurostimulation Therapy)?

Spinal cord stimulation is delivered with a small spinal cord stimulator—similar to a pacemaker—that is implanted under the skin. The neurostimulator delivers mild electrical pulses to your spine, causing a tingling sensation in the area of your chronic pain.

How Spinal Cord Stimulation Works

Spinal cord stimulation provides pain relief by modifying the pain messages before they reach the brain. The neurostimulator sends out mild electrical pulses that reach the brain faster than the pain signal can arrive. In other words, it outsmarts your back and leg pain. Instead of feeling pain, you may feel a tingling sensation.

You can adjust the strength and location of stimulation using a handheld programmer. For example, you can regulate different levels of stimulation at different times of the day or for various activities, such as walking, sleeping, or sitting.

Learn about the benefits and risks of spinal cord stimulation

Wondering what spinal cord stimulation feels like? Talk with one of our ambassadors, who has a neurostimulation system for pain and has volunteered to share his or her experience.


Neurostimulation in Action

See how the Medtronic neurostimulator outsmarts pain.

Depending on the neurostimulation system, the device may feature adaptive stimulation that automatically adjusts the level of stimulation when you change positions. AdaptiveStim™ technology remembers the stimulation changes and applies the setting the next time you move into that position.

What Patients Say About Neurostimulation


Neurostimulation Therapy Since 2009
“I get very sick when I take oral meds…that was one of the things that kind of moved me towards the spinal cord stimulator because I didn’t have to take anything orally. I just had to hit a button if I was in pain. And that’s a lot better to me.”

See more of David’s journey

Components of the Neurostimulation System

A complete spinal cord stimulation or neurostimulation system includes several components:

  • Neurostimulator – The device, similar to a pacemaker, that sends mild electrical pulses and is usually surgically implanted under the skin in your upper buttock or abdomen
  • Leads (pronounced “leeds”) – Thin, insulated medical wires that deliver neurostimulation to the epidural space near the spine
  • Physician Programmer – A device at your doctor’s office that lets your doctor adjust the neurostimulation system and set stimulation levels
  • Handheld Programmer – A device similar to a remote control that you can use at home to optimize pain relief based on how your pain is changing throughout the day or during various activities

The neurostimulation system does not make any audible noise. It may be felt as a small bump under your skin, but does not normally show through your clothes.