In long-term therapy, the spinal cord stimulation (also known as neurostimulation) system is placed under your skin during a surgical procedure.

What to Expect During the Procedure for a Neurostimulation System Implant

If you and your doctor decide to move forward with neurostimulation therapy to treat your chronic pain, the system will be implanted during a surgical procedure. This procedure is most often performed in a hospital or surgery center on an outpatient basis. You may even be able to return home on the same day as your procedure. However, some people stay overnight.

During your procedure:

  • You will be placed on an operating room table, probably on your stomach.
  • The medication you are given may make you drowsy.
  • Your doctor makes a small incision on your back and places the leads (medical wires) that deliver the stimulation into the epidural space of your spinal cord.
  • A second incision (about 2 to 4 inches long) is made where your doctor forms a pocket under the skin that is large enough to hold the neurostimulator.
  • Your doctor connects the leads to the neurostimulator.
  • Once the leads and neurostimulator are in position, the doctor closes the incisions and completes the surgery.
  • The procedure takes approximately 1 to 3 hours.

The length of your hospital stay will vary depending on your doctor’s preference and hospital procedures.

One Patient’s Experience With Surgery for Long-term Neurostimulation


Neurostimulation Therapy Since 2009
"I really wasn't nervous about having the surgery when I had the implant. I just wanted to get it over with because actually I knew how I felt about the trial period. And it went so well that I figured at this point, it could only get better. And I had no problems with it."

Watch and read other real-life patient journeys

Wondering what it's like to go through the procedure for long-term therapy? Talk with one of our ambassadors, who has a neurostimulation system for pain and has volunteered to share his or her experience.

Risks of Neurostimulation Therapy

The spinal cord stimulation system is surgically placed under the skin. Surgical complications are possible and may include infection, pain at the site of surgery, and bleeding into the epidural space. Once the neurostimulation system is implanted, device complications may occur and include corrective surgery, jolting, leads breaking, and movement of the leads within the epidural space which may require reprogramming or surgical replacement of the leads. These events may result in uncomfortable stimulation or loss of therapy.

For additional safety information, please refer to Important Safety Information. Always discuss the potential risks and benefits of the therapy with your doctor.

What to Expect During the First Weeks of Recovery

The recovery time after getting the therapy is usually about 6-8 weeks. You may experience some initial discomfort and limits on movements. Be sure to listen to your body and follow your doctor's instructions.

After a few weeks, it's a good idea to try some activities you enjoy, such as going for a walk, riding your bike, going to a movie, or watching a ball game. Then, set some goals with your doctor for other activities you'd like to try or tasks you'd like to accomplish.

Making Adjustments to Your Pain Therapy

As you begin to reclaim your life, you may find that you experience pain when you do a particular activity or at certain times of the day. Or, your pain may be unpredictable and have no pattern. You can respond to changes in your pain symptoms by adjusting your therapy, using your programmer.

MyStim programmer for neurostimulation therapy
MyStim Programmer for Neurostimulation Therapy

This handheld device is like a remote control that controls your implanted device. It gives you a safe and easy way to take an active role in managing your pain.

Your doctor will use a computer-like programmer in his or her office to program your implanted device settings. You will use the handheld programmer shown here to manage your pain.

The handheld MyStim™ programmer allows you to adjust the strength and location of stimulation; regulate different levels of stimulation at different times of the day for various activities, such as walking, sleeping, or sitting; and optimize pain relief based on how your pain is changing throughout the day and during your activities.

What to Expect During Daily Life With Neurostimulation Therapy

Realistic expectations are key to being satisfied with any pain treatment. It is important to remember that neurostimulation will not eliminate the source of your pain or cure any underlying disease, but can help you manage the pain.

Talk with your doctor about activities you can do and when you should be a little more careful.

Call your doctor right away if you:

  • Experience additional or unusual pain
  • Notice changes in the effect your therapy is having on your pain
  • Think you need to increase the intensity of your therapy

If you currently have a Medtronic neurostimulator and need product support, please visit our website for people receiving that chronic pain therapy.