Recovering From a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Procedure
By: Dr. Amanda Trout
Once you have a spinal cord stimulator, you’re starting a new chapter in your life. You may feel ready to get back to your normal activities since you’re experiencing pain relief. Still, recovering from a spinal cord stimulator procedure requires patience and understanding. Please follow our recommendations to get back to your active life safely and healthily.
What To Expect While Recovering From A Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant
Since the spinal cord stimulator is an outpatient procedure, after it is implanted, you will get to go home the same day. Your spinal stimulator will be turned on after surgery to give you relief from your chronic pain. Thus, any discomfort patients feel after the procedure is usually incisional and depends on the type of stimulator they received. Paddle implants require a small amount of bone to be removed, which makes them more invasive, and typically requires a longer recovery period. On the other hand, a percutaneous implant is much less invasive with shorter recovery times.
Regardless, you can expect a little bit of discomfort at the incision sites for at least three days to a week. Your doctor will inject local anesthesia in the surrounding area around the implant site to help relieve any pain. We will also prescribe you the recommended pain medication and encourage you to apply an ice compress to the area to reduce pain and swelling.
Spinal Cord Stimulator Recovery Protocols
The local anesthetic your doctor injects lasts around 24 to 36 hours, which will help significantly with post-operative pain. The day of the procedure, you may feel tired or foggy and this is an excellent time to relax and take it easy while you’re at home. Try to rest for the first several days to ensure proper healing. We recommend focusing on gentle walking and limiting other activities for several days, although your pain relief may make you feel as though you can do much more. For the first two weeks with your implant do not:
- Bend, twist, or do any rigorous activity
- Lift objects more than five pounds
After the first two weeks and follow-up appointments, you can gradually increase your activity levels. Most patients will be able to return to normal activity around six to eight weeks after the procedure.
Keeping your incision sites clean and dry is imperative for proper healing and avoiding infection. Surgical dressings should be left on and should not get wet during the first three days. At this time, do not take a shower or bath. Sponge baths are safe until your doctor says it is okay to start showering again.
Mild bruising or swelling at the incision site is common, which you can care for by placing an ice pack on top of the area. If there is significant swelling or leaking, then please call us.
Two weeks after your spinal cord implant procedure, you will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor. During this time, your doctor will examine the incision to ensure that it’s healing correctly without any redness or infection. They will also determine whether or not you’re ready to take baths. Lastly, they will check to see how the stimulator is working for you and if it is safe to increase your activity level.
If your pain levels have not improved, your doctor will schedule an appointment with the representative from the spinal cord stimulator company to get your device reprogrammed so you can get better pain management.
You will have a second follow-up in a month to re-examine the incision and check in on your activity. If you’re finding relief and the procedure has healed, you will be in the clear to return to all your normal activities.
When To Call A Doctor
During your spinal cord stimulator recovery, if you feel any of the following symptoms call 911 or go to the emergency room right away:
- Extreme pain in your legs
- Motor weakness or paralysis in your legs
- Sudden numbness in your legs
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
These signs are indicative of bleeding into your spine, a severe emergency that needs immediate medical attention.
If you are experiencing any of the following, please call us to have a doctor review your incision site and implant:
- Increased swelling or redness at the incision site
- Fever at 100 or higher
- Your chronic pain is not being well controlled
Any Questions? Please Contact Us
If you’re recovering from an implant and have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to ensure your implant heals appropriately and that you receive the maximum pain relief possible.
Overall, we’ve seen high rates of success and recovery with spinal cord stimulators.
Most patients find the procedure to be a smooth, well-worth-it experience, and we’re confident you can as well. Once your chronic pain is controlled, you’ll find your incisional pain will heal fast, and you’ll return to a life of activity and abundance.
If you feel like this amazing technology can benefit you, then reach out to us and schedule an initial consultation to see if a spinal cord stimulator procedure is the right fit.
Check out some of these amazing spinal cord stimulator success stories: