I’ve learned to cope with the pain

Photo of two men carrying a box

Vernon, 62 years old

“For many years it wasn’t at all clear what I actually had. It got to the point where medication no longer helped either.”

I used to work as a truck driver, which involved loading and unloading goods. Every once in a while I'd have a lumbago. But that was never really that bad and went away on its own. Later on I drove wheel loaders, dumptrucks, garbage trucks and spreader trucks. That involved loading and unloading a lot of stuff too.

I’ve had back pain since about 1975. At first it was the lumbago, which came and went, and then it got worse and worse. For many years it wasn’t at all clear what I actually had. It got to the point where medication no longer helped either.

In 1987 and 1988 I spent some time in a rehabilitation hospital for my back pain. But the pain never went away completely. I went back again in 1993.

I was able to sleep really well back then – thanks to the very strong medication. I used it to numb the pain. But then the tablets started affecting my stomach and I got heartburn. My doctor gave me something for the heartburn. It worked pretty well.

I always just put my back problems down to my work

In 1996 I had really bad back pain which was even accompanied by numbness and paralysis symptoms in one leg. I always just put my back problems down to my work. After all, I often had to carry heavy things. But when the numbness started it got me thinking that something wasn’t quite right. I then had an MRI scan that found out that one of my spinal disks was damaged, so I had surgery on the disk.

After the surgery everything was great at first. But a few years later I started to get really bad pain again. It got worse and worse over time. First one of my legs went numb, then the other, and I couldn't walk anymore and ended up in the emergency room. At hospital they told me I had a badly slipped disk. I had surgery straight away because they said I might be at risk of becoming paralyzed otherwise. The whole thing with the operation was really stressful. I’ve got a wife and kids at home, and I was working at the time as well. I was very relieved after the operation. I noticed a difference straight away. It was a great feeling.

Back then the doctors said that it could all be linked to my job as a truck driver. But my boss didn’t agree. I was moved to a different department so I no longer had to lift or carry heavy things. The pain didn’t go away though. Three years after the surgery I went into partial retirement, and have been fully retired for three years now.

Both operations were a big deal for me. I was scared. But they both went well and didn’t lead to any complications.

I can't stay in one position for long

I am still in pain nowadays but I generally get by without medication. If I have to sit somewhere for a while, like when I’m at the movies, then I might have to get up and walk around a bit at some point. The best thing for me is to do a mix of walking, sitting, lying down and standing. I just can’t stay in one position for very long.

For four years now I’ve been going to back training classes once a week. That’s really good for me. And I go Nordic walking with my wife. I really enjoy it.

When I was still working I found it hard to do anything for my back. I just didn’t have any time to. I was on the road a lot with my truck, spending one night in one place and the next night somewhere else.

The physiotherapy really helped me. I learned which movements and exercises I can do to release tension and relax. I tried doing them at home. I was shown how to use gym equipment properly. The movements and exercise make me feel more stable physically.

Over the years I’ve learned to cope with the pain. I now know exactly what to do about it. Movement, exercise and distraction really help.

Another thing that helps a lot is the self-help group I joined. We meet up once a month. The other people in the group all have chronic pain. I find it really helpful to talk to them about stuff.

I do still worry that the pain could get worse again. So I always have medication at home, just in case. Luckily I don’t need to use it that often anymore though.


Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Updated on July 19, 2023

Next planned update: 2026


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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