My Life with Spinal Stenosis

By Brandis Standridge

I was a young, 16-year old track athlete the first time I experienced my back “going out.” The spasms, the pain and the sciatica were horrible. 

My family physician did everything right and I learned how to manage my symptoms for the next twenty years, although each time by back went out it was a little worse than the last.

At 37, my back went out again. I found out that I had severe spinal stenosis on multiple levels due to facet and ligament hypertrophy. Basically, osteoarthritis had overgrown the ligaments and joints in my spine so badly that it was crushing my spinal cord on 10 levels.

I was referred to several pain management specialists.  All of them were horrible.  I had to fill out lengthy questionnaires and they refused to give me pain medication unless I consented to their procedures.

They pushed for spinal injections and for fusion surgery, even while admitting the surgery had only a 50/50 success rate. I refused.

Never in my entire life have I felt as segregated, helpless, victimized, and scared as I have dealing with these specialized "professionals.” After the last one, I returned to my family physician in tears and told her I would rather live in agony than be forced into procedures and treated as if I were some local street addict before they even knew me.



Two years ago I had to move.  My doctor gave me a letter of reference, medical and MRI records, and a report from my state pharmacy board. All of this was to help the new doctor with the vetting process to help get me treatment. But, it started all over again; the assumptions, ultimatums, and power plays: "If you don't do this, you won't get medication.”

Once again I refused to be without choices or a voice of my own.

I am a former social worker.  I know how to advocate and refuse to be pushed into procedures that will more than likely hurt me more in the long and short term.  I refuse to let doctors push me into places where I have no voice, where I am not able to be a member of my medical treatment team.

I did eventually find a doctor. Our relationship is a bit tense at times but I am receiving the care that I choose.

We have a right to choose our medical procedures without fear of punishment. We have a right to be active in our treatment and to live as pain free as possible.

Never lose faith in yourself. Never stop having hope.  We are chronic pain warriors, not victims!

Brandis Standridge lives in Idaho.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us.

Send them to:

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.