Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Accompanying a Friend to the Neurologist

One of my computer clients called – asking me to accompany her to her neurologist appointment. I agreed.

Usually, when I accompany family members I’m afraid of what the doctors might say.  But with my client, I was more curious than afraid.

My client injured her back. She has a herniated disc, or as some of her doctors call it, a pinched nerve.  She’s tried pain killers but they didn’t work.  She tried physical therapy.  That didn’t work.  

In my world, there are a variety of pain killers.  In my world, different physical therapists have different methods for helping. Some are better than others.  

This doctor didn’t share my view.  She thought that since my client had tried drugs and PT, that it was time for surgery.

My client is terrified of back surgery.  From what I’ve read on the web, back surgery is only effective about half the time.

In addition to visiting this neurologist, my client is also seeing an Osteopath and an Acupuncturist.  The Neurologist didn’t seem happy to hear about either of these.  She suggested a test that my client would need before surgery.  My client agreed to this test, even though she is still hoping to avoid surgery.

An aide at the neurologist’s office also measured my client’s blood pressure.  It was extremely low.  80 over 60.  My client takes blood pressure lowering medicine.  I asked if maybe the dose should be changed.  The aide said to ask the doctor. The doctor said to ask the G.P.  My client said she’s been feeling dizzy. And she doesn’t like her G.P. She asked the neurologist to recommend a new G.P.  The neurologist gave her several names, but said she didn’t know if they are taking clients right now.

When we left, my client asked what I would do.  I told her I’d ask both her osteopath and her acupuncturist if they thought they could stop her back pain and if so, how long would it take. I also suggested she see my favorite PT because maybe he could help her. And I suggested she get a balance ball to bounce on because that helped me when I had a herniated disc.

The main thing that stood out from this visit was how provincial all the branches of medicine are. They could work together. But instead they don’t approve of each other, and they feel constrained by their narrow training.  Letting my client walk out of the office without adjusting her blood pressure medication makes no sense to me.  Pushing surgery when one drug and one PT weren’t successful makes no sense to me.  Surgery is a big deal with many risks.  Pushing surgery when alternatives have not yet been exhausted makes no sense at all.  At least my client is in no hurry for surgery, despite her pain.


  1. When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. My issue with surgeons is that they're often in a hurry to do something irrevocable. When I herniated C4 and C5 I found traction to be very helpful, which was prescribed by a neurologist.

    1. Allison, thanks. I'll tell my friend about traction. I found bouncing on a balance ball to be helpful when I had a herniated disc. There are lots of things to try before surgery.