"A GP's handling of my whiplash problem"

About: Brighton and Hove City PCT

(as the patient),

Three- and- a-half weeks ago, I fell on some rocks on a hill outside Barcelona, resulting in concussion, 18 stitches in my forehead and a 7-inch diameter bruise on my left ribcage, but no fractures. Back in the UK four days or later the inevitable whiplash symptoms, muscle spasms and stiffness started all over my shoulders and upper arms, but most painfully in the back of my neck, on my left shoulder, over the left shoulder blade and upper left arm. These spasms came on during the day but more painfully at night, resulting in my losing sleep for at least half the night for nearly three weeks.

A week after the fall, I consulted a local GP at a Brighton doctors' surgery about the problem and was told that such spasms were to be expected for at least two weeks after such an accident and advised to keep taking paracetamol. I tried paracetamol, then, on the advice of a pharmacist, codeine and paracetamol tablets.

These did little to stop the pain, especially at night, so I stayed off work until for another week and then saw a second GP about it, saying that I needed something to control the pain sufficiently to return to work.

This GP prescribed stronger (30/500) codeine tablets and anti-inflammatory diclofenac sodium tablets and said that the codeine were likely to make me drowsy, but that there was nothing to stop me from returning to work straight away. This was less than two weeks after the accident, and surprised me a little, as I had read that a month's absence from work is common in these cases.

Anyhow I returned to work for five days and found that the drowsiness made work very difficult. I persevered because I had read on the internet that the drowsiness of such strong tablets wears off. In my case it did not, and the effectiveness of the tablets was still weak, and I was still up half the night with muscle pains.

I then returned to the second GP and told her that I could not continue working in such circumstances. The appointment was at 5pm (always a bad time). She advised that I take ordinary paracetamol during the day and codeine tablets at night, to stop the drowsiness. Her manner suggested to me that she considered me a nuisance. She said that the pain at night was probably due to my sleeping in a bad position. This is not true - the nightly spasms have been coming on between 9 and 10 pm like a pre-set timer, even before I have gone to bed, and I have been sleeping on my back to spare my left ribcage.

I am more than a little put out by the attitude of the second GP, who seems to have been avoiding giving me a sick note at all costs. I was amazed at the advice to continue working while taking tablets that considerably reduced my ability to do so. I am inclined to avoid this GP in the future, and wonder whether others would find the same.

Happily I am now controlling the pain better with tiger balm and exercises and am sleeping better. I can cope with work OK now, but should have been spared those five days at work when I was really not up to it.

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