FRIDLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — From his days spent in the U.S. Navy back in the 1970s, Skip Parks has been plagued with excruciating back pain.

He endured multiple back surgeries and was prescribed opioids to help reduce his pain.

“It had to be six or seven years on morphine plus,” Parks said.

That was just part of his daily pain regimen. Since then, he’s been prescribed just about every opioid possible in hopes of relief.

“I for years had to listen to my wife cry herself to sleep because I couldn’t roll over to kiss her goodnight,” Parks said.

On a pain scale of one to 10, Skip says he was often a 10. So last year, his doctors implanted a medical device intended to bring him badly needed relief.

Medtronic’s neurostimulator device called, “Intellis” is roughly the size of a pacemaker.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” says Pain Management Physician, Dr. Chris Reis.

Dr. Reis says surgeons place tiny electrical leads near the spinal cord. Intellis is then programed to emit variable tiny pulses of electricity – micro charges carried to precise locations of pain sensors, essentially blocking the pain signal to the brain.

“There’s a layer of buffer there that hold leads in place and it works very well. We can stimulate the spinal cord to override the bigger nerve fibers to override the pain they’re having,” Dr. Reis said.

Opioids last year killed 49,000 Americans. Medtronic’s Vice President, Marshal Stanton, says greater awareness of pain management alternatives is key to ending that crisis.

“So many people could benefit from these therapies yet we have some physicians who don’t know about them,” Dr. Stanton said.

Skip Park lost both his niece and a nephew to overdoses of opioids. He credits Medtronic’s Intellis pain management device for greatly reducing his chronic pain, and getting him off opioids.

“If you don’t want that life again, this hands you options,” said Parks.

Bill Hudson