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The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

Posted on 16th September 2016 by

I love a great documentary that investigates and highlights issues in health & wellbeing. This week, BBC’s Dr Chris van Tulleken challenged GP’s to see if they could reduce the amount of¬†pills they prescribe on The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs.

The increase in the prescription of drugs to solve common medical complaints is frightening. Dr van Tulleken describes the problem as

“A tsunami of drugs”

The healthy person in a normal lifetime consumes up to 100,000 pills. Yet, much of the science actually says the drugs don’t work. The programme obviously acknowledges that medication is often essential and the progress that has been made in this field saves lives. However, for so many conditions there are alternative approaches that can actually be more effective.

The programme featured a lady who’d been suffering with shoulder and back pain for the last 20 years. This lady had been taking painkillers for 20 years, increasingly more in the last 2 years. However, despite her cocktail of drugs, she still suffered with ongoing pain. She said she’d tried physio and exercises but admitted she’d given the little commitment. Her husband’s comment was that she’d

“Rather pop a pill than do exercises”

Dr van Tulleken carried out a little test, where he unknowingly and gradually replaced her pain medication with placebo drugs. It made absolutely no difference, so irrelevant of whether she was taking painkillers or not, her pain levels varied.

She was encouraged to do some carefully prescribed exercises under supervision, and ended up not taking any painkillers and more importantly than that had hope that she wouldn’t have to live with pain. What people don’t commonly know is

“Exercise is a painkiller”

Many people just want the easy answer. Both GP’s and patients are choosing the easy option, prescribing and taking drugs. But there are alternatives and physiotherapy is such a great one. The power of exercise, activity and from our view the reassurance we provide is phenomenal. Often people are scared to move, frightened of exercising, thinking that it’ll do more harm. But what we provide is time, education and ¬†support to help people do the right exercises.

No, it’s not the easiest solution. It takes time, it takes some investment and commitment. Things may get a little worse before they get better and it can be a bit of a rollercoaster at times. But alternatives to drugs have to become more recognised and a first point of call instead of reaching for the prescription pad.

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Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this programme if you watched it or any experiences of reliance on painkillers you’d like to share.


Too many medicines, not enough health

Posted on 12th December 2014 by

At goPhysio, we always like to keep our eye on health related news (and always have an opinion of some sort!).

This week I was interested to read a new report on the number of people who regularly take prescription medication. Half of women and 43% of men in England are now regularly taking prescription drugs, according to the comprehensive Health Survey for England. Cholesterol-lowering statins, pain relief and anti-depressants were among the most prescribed medicines.

What’s scary though is that those figures won’t account for medication available over the counter, like painkillers or ant-inflammatories such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If these numbers were considered too, the number of people taking regular painkillers would be frightening!

The problem is that people nowadays want an easy, quick solutions to their problems. I’m going to say it, we’re lazy! Rather than doing things to promote health – like taking regular exercise, eating well and living a ‘healthy’ lifestyle, we are falling back on our Doctors to pick up the pieces with a magic little pill! How easy is it to just take a tablet?!

Take back pain, why invest in getting fitter and healthier, loosing weight, taking part in some exercise, educating yourself how to look after your back and invest some time in addressing your back problem when you can take a few tablets every day?

In our physio clinic we see it every day. People see their GPs and are advised to take painkillers. The problem doesn’t get better, so what happens eventually – they have an operation, that’s the solution. Our society is over diagnosed and over medicalised, according to a GP that appeared on the BBC and I totally agree.

Obviously there are cases where medical advancements in drugs is amazing and there are times when medication saves and enhances life and there isn’t an alternative. But, our mind set has to change. Particularly in our field of musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries & pain (affecting the bones, joints, muscles & nerves). A positive, pro-active approach to both preventing and managing MSK issues would drastically cut reliance on pain medication, both prescription and over the counter.

Unfortunately, the culture in this country is that we look for someone else to solve our problems. We’re honest with the people we see in the clinic who come and see us for help. We’re there to support and help recovery for an injury, but it has to be an active partnership. People who come and see us have to be prepared to follow our advice, make changes if necessary, do their exercises and play an active part in their recovery. The result is a greater understanding of the problem and how it happened and making positive steps going forwards to stop it happening again. That’s a long term solution!