TV Doctor Calls For Prescription Overhaul For Chronic Pain

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The Law Of... considering alternative treatments for chronic pain

A BBC documentary, The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs, has focused on prescriptions and an alleged overmedication culture in the UK, with the two-part show highlighting how a multi-disciplinary approach to ailments such as chronic pain and depression could be more effective than repeat prescriptions.

The Law Of... considering alternative treatments for chronic pain

The documentary was led by TV doctor Chris van Tulleken, whose opening gambit in the programme's first episode was to share shocking statistics that showed GPs are prescribing over a billion tablets each year, with the average British citizen taking 100,000 pills in their lifetime.

Working within the requirements of this prescription culture, how could Dr van Tulleken challenge perceptions about how to manage long-term illnesses, and what effect could the documentary have for people currently suffering from conditions like chronic pain?

Ineffective Prescriptions

The show does open with the disclaimer that many tablets save lives and that there are many cases where a prescription are an absolute necessity.

Dr van Tulleken's focus in The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs are those repeat prescriptions for conditions that could be managed by adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment.

It is claimed that many patients are offered prescriptions because it is quicker for a GP to provide the pills that the patient may be expecting, as opposed to sitting down and explaining how a longer course of physical exercise could work better than medication, which often feature a range of side effects.

The wider consequences of our apparent pill popping culture could be strains of viral infections that are resistance to antibiotics.

After issuing these stark warnings on our current situation, the documentary introduces us to two patients, one of whom has suffered from chronic shoulder pain for 20 years and the other has had a repeat prescription of anti-depressants for 8 years.

Multi-disciplinary Treatments

Both of these patients are prescribed multi-disciplinary treatments by Dr van Tulleken, who recommends cold water swimming as a cure for depression and daily exercises to combat chronic shoulder pain.

While the treatments may seem simple, and even archaic, in nature, there is a science to these multi-disciplinary approaches.

Cold water swimming has been quoted as a cure for depression as the shock of the cold water, and our body's reaction to this exposure to adverse conditions, can help improve our responses to stress in the real-world.

For the patient suffering from chronic shoulder pain, the Dr's approach began by swapping her pain medication for a placebo.

It became apparent that there was no correlation between her level of pain and the medication she was taking; quite simply her prescriptions had stopped working.

Once this had been established, the patient is encouraged to begin daily exercises to ease her pain, and her condition improves significantly.

Discussing the conclusions drawn from the show, Anna Thompson – Personal Injury Associate – said:

"This documentary explored the use of drugs in treatment of various conditions, including depression and chronic pain. These are conditions that many of our clients find themselves suffering after a serious injury."

"While the documentary highlighted the difficulty GPs face finding the time to explain multi-disciplinary approaches to treatment, many of the experts we appoint to help our clients often recommend a multi-disciplinary approach for their rehabilitation."

"In many instances these recommendations do not include drug treatment and we often find that with psychological conditions and chronic pain, this approach offers the best course of recovery for our clients."


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