A Non-Opioid Option for Chronic Pain

Medtronic spinal cord stimulation can be an effective non-opioid treatment for chronic intractable pain.

Erwin “Skip” Parks never thought he could become a drug addict.

“It was devastating to realize that I was addicted to something,” he said.

For Parks, 60, and millions of other Americans1, that “something” is pain medication, prescribed by doctors to help him manage chronic pain.

At its worst, he says a pain score of 10 out of 10 wasn’t really descriptive of his severe pain. “I was immobile. I couldn’t do anything,” he said.

Parks served nearly 20 years as an engineer in the Navy. A series of military-related back injuries led to several back surgeries and left him disabled. Over the years, doctors prescribed higher and higher doses of opioids for the intense pain, but the increased medication did not control Skip’s pain.

Eventually, Skip realized “I'm still in pain, there's got to be something else I can do.” That’s when his doctors recommended he try spinal cord stimulation.

At OhioHealth in Columbus, Dr. Chris Karas implanted the Medtronic Intellis™ device low on the left side of Skip’s back.  Wires, or leads, run from the rechargeable device and are placed over areas of the spinal cord, delivering tiny electric impulses to treat the pain.

“We see pain relief immediately in most patients,” said Dr. Karas. “And we see functional improvement in a very short period, usually within a week or two, although not every patient experience is exactly the same.”

“I’ve gone from a 10-plus to about a 6, so for me, that’s huge,” Parks said. “Six, I can live with.”

Skip Parks holding his guitar.

Skip Parks

Underutilized Technology

Parks is one of as many as 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain.1 Often treated with opioids, it’s estimated up to 29 percent of those pain patients misuse the drugs that are supposed to help them.2

Dr. Michael Bourn served on a governor’s task force to address Ohio’s opioid crisis. “While I don’t think spinal cord stimulation is a panacea, it fits well into a multi-modal pain management strategy, especially if opioid sparing is our goal,” he said.

There was a time when even lifting a camera was too painful for Skip Parks. But today, he says spinal cord stimulation has allowed him to get back to living a full life. “It’s given me the ability to be me again,” he said.

“The thing I missed most was being able to hold my wife at night. It’s been years,” he added. “With Intellis, I’m able to make some adjustments and roll over, lay on my side, and actually wrap my arms around my wife again. It’s an amazing thing.”


Vowles KE, McEntee ML, Julnes PS, Frohe T, Ney JP, van der Goes DN. Rates of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction in chronic pain: a systematic review and data synthesis. Pain. 2015;156(4):569-576. doi:10.1097/01.j.pain.0000460357.01998.f1.