What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator and How Does it Work?

A spinal cord stimulator is a small device that is implanted near the spine to reduce chronic pain. After it is implanted via surgery, spinal cord stimulation uses mild electrical pulses to interfere with pain signals reaching the brain. This neuromodulation reduces pain because the electrical pulses mask the pain signal, preventing it from reaching your brain.

In other words, spinal cord stimulation doesn’t eliminate the source of pain. Instead, it works by interfering with the signal to the brain, causing patients to either not feel pain signals experience a tingling feeling instead.

Not all patients get the same degree of relief from neuromodulation, so a trial period is respected before permanent surgery is performed. This means that there are two procedures in the spinal cord stimulator implant process: the trial and the implantation. Even if a patient changes their mind after permanent surgery, spinal cord stimulators can be removed without damaging the spinal cord or nerves.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Implants Make Pain a Thing of the Past

Spinal cord stimulation is a type of neuromodulation that can improve your sleep, quality of life, and ability to go about your day without taking pain medication. The spinal cord stimulator implant procedure itself is minimally invasive and has a low risk of complications. Compared to other surgical treatments, the healing time for spinal cord stimulator surgery is generally shorter.

What do Spinal cord stimulators treat?

Spinal cord stimulation is used most often after nonsurgical pain treatment options have failed to provide sufficient relief. Spinal cord stimulators may be used to treat or manage different types of chronic pain, including:

Generally, spinal cord stimulation treatment is used for people who aren’t able to get sufficient pain relief with medications, less-invasive therapies or other surgeries.

What To Expect From the Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Process

Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial

During the spinal cord stimulator trial procedure, the device is not implanted in the body. Instead, the wires are inserted and an external transmitter sends the pulses.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Implantation

After a successful spinal cord stimulator trial, the spinal cord stimulator implant, a small generator, is placed discreetly under the skin and gives you complete control over your relief.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery Recovery Time and Care

Recovery is one of the most important parts of any surgery, and the most important part of the recovery process from a spinal cord stimulator implant surgery is the first week after. During the recovery, our spinal cord stimulator implant doctors will first provide you with a list of activities to avoid as much as possible for a few weeks after surgery, including:

  • Lifting objects heavier than five pounds
  • Athletic activities that could move the device before you heal
  • Sudden jerking motions like twisting and bending
  • Extended periods of sitting still that put pressure on your spine
  • Lifting your arms above your head

Activities like driving may also be restricted in the first few weeks after surgery. Discuss any specific activities you need to do for your work or home life with your Greater Austin Pain Center doctor prior to surgery.

Woman at elevators in front of San Antonio Eye Specialists sign.

The Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Process


Schedule an Appointment

Give us a call to schedule your appointment to one of our locations. You can also fill out our form, and we’ll reach out to finalize your appointment.


Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial Period

If you’re considered a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation, we’ll have you try out spinal cord stimulation for a few days with a temporary implant.


Permanent Implant

If the trial period goes well, we’ll implant a permanent spinal cord stimulator that allows you to adjust the type of pain relief needed for various activities.


"Dr. Jarzembeck is AMAZING. I HIGHLY recommend her for anyone suffering in pain. She goes above and beyond to make sure her patients pain has been dealt with."

Genia G.

"Everyone is so friendly and helpful, Dr. Bednar came to me and explained the procedure and answered my questions. Highly recommend!"

Maggie G.

"Dr. Julia is the best! The staff is professional and friendly to all. Best of all, Dr. Julia is finding solutions for my chronic pain! Never thought that it would be possible. It's a journey for me, but it seems like there is a solution."

Nancy M.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is viscosupplementation covered by insurance?

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Yes. Most insurances cover viscosupplementation. A prior authorization will be obtained in advance if required. Our billing department is happy to address any questions or concerns regarding coverage.

Is viscosupplementation safe?

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Viscosupplementation is a very low risk procedure, with very few side effects. Our providers here at Greater Austin Pain Center are highly experienced, and take multiple safety precautions to minimize side effects, and if one does occur, it is usually minor in nature.  Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare, but, like with any medication, a possibility.

How many injections will I receive?

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Most patients will undergo 3-6 injections per joint, usually separated by 1-2 weeks, to complete a full course of viscosupplementation therapy.  This is done to maximize the benefits of viscosupplementation, while also minimizing the chance for pain and swelling if all the liquid was injected at once.  This series of viscosupplementation injections can be repeated if the symptoms return several months later.

Lunch & Learn With Our Doctors

Curious about Spinal Cord and Peripheral Nerve Stimulation? Join our doctors for an in-person lunch and learn session to find out more about these treatments and ask any questions you may have. This event will be 12–1pm, sign up below to receive more details and RSVP.

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Austin Spinal Cord Pain Doctors

If you suffer from chronic pain and want to take back your life, we have four convenient locations in Austin, Kyle, Dripping Springs, and San Marcos. Find out more about our team of pain doctors dedicated to your wellbeing.

To learn more about how we treat pain symptoms and find long term solutions, please check out our pain conditions and treatments pages. You can get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team to schedule an appointment at one of our pain management centers in Austin.

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