Resolve Pain logo


Your health team may be discussing the option of neurostimulation with you. Many people have not heard of this therapy but are curious about how it works and whether it may suit you. Essentially neuro (nerve) stimulation is where we use electricity to ‘scramble’ electrical pathways in nerves. Our nerves use electricity to transmit sensation and pain signals. So it makes sense that if we can block those pain signals, we may be able to block your pain.

Neurostimulationhas been around since the 1960s, but increases in technology and batteries have allowed modern medicine to use the therapy more and more to dampen and reduce pain. You can see how much mobile phone technology has changed in the last ten years. Neurostimulation technology has also dramatically improved year after year in the same way.

The principle is quite simple. We use small electrodes and place them next to the nerves. We can put these next to the nerve either outside the spine (such as in the neck for headaches or around arm nerves for limb pain) or just in a space behind the spinal cord called the epidural space.

Implant site for lower limb and back pain

These small devices, often the size or smaller than a pacemaker, can either have a small internal battery (lasting between 3-8ish years, depending on your needs) or can be charged through the skin - like charging a phone. These devices can be controlled by small remote controllers or, increasingly, by an app on your mobile phone. They can be adjusted or turned on or off at will by you.

So why does everyone not have one? Many people with pain can improve with education, exercises, medications, and minor procedures such as injections or radiofrequency ablation. And these have lower costs and fewer procedure risks, so we would always offer these first. But for some people, these other therapies are not enough, or people don’t like taking high amounts of medication ongoing. In that case, it may be worth considering neurostimulation options and trialling whether it may work for you.

Your health team can guide whether your type of pain may be treated by neurostimulation.

The process of putting in a neurostimulator is performed in two main steps. We insert the small leads in an operating theatre to the correct location - but leave these leads coming out through a dressing. We then set up a test for up to seven days so you can try the device and see if it works for you. If it does not work, we remove the leads and move on to other options; if the trial works for you, then six weeks later (to allow time for the trial site to settle), we can implant the longer-lasting complete device.

There are risks with implanting a neurostimulator. These are mainly the risk of infection, the leads moving and not working, or complications from placing the neurostimulator, such as nerve injury.

There are also costs involved, so you must consider if a neurostimulator is worth trialling. Most private insurers at higher levels of coverage do cover parts of the cost of these devices/procedures. If you are interested, our nurse and reception staff can advise how you can check if you may have an eligible level of private insurance coverage.

Neurostimulationis just another option in the long list of options we use at Resolve Pain to help you reduce your pain and ultimately get back to doing more things you enjoy.

You can talk to your health team at Resolve Pain if you have further questions. There is also additional information below if you want to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions - About Neuromodulation for pain (INS)

Click here for PDF printable copy← Back to resources

Talk to us today about how we can help you
on your journey to Resolve Pain.