How I Avoided More Back Surgery and Learned to Manage My Pain

I was married, 29-years-old, and my wife was staying at home with our son who was about 12 months old. That is when I lost my job. No problem, I thought, I will just find a new job.

I only found part-time jobs, all with no benefits. I finally started working in a retail store that at least had the promise of benefits if I stayed with them long enough. The constant job-hopping and financial strain put a lot of pressure on our marriage. My wife went back to work and our son went to daycare.

I was sleeping poorly, working long hours, arguing with my wife, and unhappy. I picked up another part-time job to help with money. That is when I hurt my back. I was working part-time on for a lawn service and ended up with pain in my lower back that went down my left leg. I do not remember any specific injury.

After some medications and a few steroid injections, the doctor suggested surgery. I was 31-years-old when I had that surgery. They told me I would be back to “better than new.” Well, after the surgery, I was worse than ever. Now I had pain going down both legs and no letup in the lower back pain. The anger over my back pain and surgery equaled the anger I had a toward my wife who was upset and stressed about money and bills.

That is when I hit rock bottom. One day, I came home from work and my wife and son were gone. I should have seen it coming. What I did not see coming was the spike in my pain. The pain never let up, making walking and sitting next to impossible.

My doctor referred me to a psychologist to talk about my depression and anger, and also sent me to a surgeon to evaluate me for a second surgery. In therapy, I started talking about the stress in my life, not feeling in control, and how I was coping. Within a few therapy sessions, I realized I needed to face some hard issues in my life. I had to see my role in why the marriage fell apart. I also had to cope with my stress better than just working long hours and watching TV in bed.

As I made small changes in my daily habits and started to exercise, I began to sleep better and think better. Once I realized there was something I could do to manage my pain, I asked the doctor to help take me off the pain medications. I did not like how the medications made me feel and interfered with my thinking. Then I started doing breathing exercises and meeting up with old friends. I was not better overnight, but within a few months, I was managing the pain without medication, sleeping well, and able to move well enough to work full-time and exercise. The second surgery is now on hold—hopefully for good.


How To Submit Your Story

Working in pain rehabilitation puts me in contact with many people who struggle with chronic pain. I also meet people with chronic pain in stores, parks, parties, churches, and at my public lectures. In many of these encounters, I ask pain sufferers, “Have you come across someone like yourself who has been battling the kind of chronic pain you have right now?” Almost every person answers the question with ‘no’, they have never met a person who had, for example, 12 surgeries, or fibromyalgia, or pain that switches from one area of their body to another.

What each of these chronic pain sufferers does not realize is that in the United States alone, there are about 100 million people who struggle with chronic pain. This is about one-third of the adult population. In the waiting rooms of chronic pain rehabilitation programs are many people who have the same kind of chronic pain, but they never get a chance to meet each other or know they are sitting right next to someone like themselves.

You can help change the isolation many people experience by telling your own story of how you have learned to manage your chronic pain. We are featuring on Pain Rehab the personal stories of individuals who have done the hard work of chronic pain rehabilitation and taken an active role in their recovery. We are specifically looking for stories that tell the story of how a pain sufferer once relied on passive pain management strategies such as surgeries, medications, staying in bed, injections, stimulator devices, or drugs and alcohol, and realized that lasting change only comes from taking charge of one’s life and actively pursuing health and wellness. Please submit a 600 word or shorter story through our link below.