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Living With a Neurostimulator or Drug Pump

Chronic Pain

Once your drug pump or neurostimulator is implanted and the implant site is healed, you and your doctor will work together to develop a pain management program. That program may include other types of therapies in addition to your device, like physical therapy and exercise, with the goal of helping you to restore function for daily living.

After Surgery

During the first few weeks after the procedure, you may have special instructions from your doctor.

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Daily Living

After the initial healing period, neurostimulation therapy for pain relief will become a routine part of your day. Talk with your doctor about activities that may be easier with spinal cord stimulation. Many people experience improvements in their pain symptoms and quality of life after receiving a neurostimulator.


After the initial healing period (6-8 weeks), neurostimulation therapy for pain relief will become a routine part of your day.

The neurostimulator:

  • Does not make any noise
  • Does not usually show through your clothes
  • May be felt as a small bump under your skin
  • Can be adjusted using hand-held programmers (similar to a cell phone or pager)

A typical follow-up schedule is once every 6 months, although initially the neurostimulation system may require more frequent adjustments. Your doctor may want to see you more or less frequently, depending on your pain treatment plan. Between visits, you should call your doctor if:

  • You experience additional/unusual pain
  • You notice unusual changes in the quality of your stimulation or you experience no sensation when the neurostimulation system is turned on
  • You are increasing stimulation more often than normal
  • The stimulation pattern changes unexpectedly



After the initial healing period (6 to 8 weeks), the drug pump will become a routine part of your day. 

Your pump is placed near the surface of your skin for refill access. You may be able to see the pump under your skin when it is not covered with clothes, or if you are wearing fitted clothes. Depending on your size and shape, where the pump is implanted, and the size of your pump, the pump may not show at all.

The doctor fills the pump with pain medication using a needle. You and your doctor must work together to find the dose of medication that is most comfortable for you. Dosing can be customized to accommodate your needs at different times of the day/night or week.


You will need to return to your doctor's office periodically for checkups and to have your pump refilled. The medication in your pump needs to be refilled every 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on your dosage and the size of your pump. The frequency of refills depends on the drug concentration and the amount of pain medication you receive every day.


Some movements may stretch or put strain on the catheter or on the stitches that hold your pump in place. Your doctor may give you guidelines for activities to avoid.

Although the catheter is made of flexible and durable materials, it is still subject to wear. Excessive or repetitive bending, twisting, bouncing, or stretching can move or stretch the catheter. This damage may require surgery to repair or possibly replace the catheter.


Getting an MRI

If you ever need an MRI, here’s what you and your doctor should know.

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Recharging Your Neurostimulator

Rechargeable neurostimulators contain a battery that must be recharged regularly to maintain the therapy.


Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.