Back Pain, chiropractor, CHRONIC PAIN, DRUGS, FIBROMYALGIA, HEALTH, meditation, physiotherapy, Repeat Prescriptions, yoga



Last night was the final episode of the first series of ‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’, on BBC 1. In this concluding part of the program Dr Chris van Tulleken carries on with his aim to try to get patients off drugs.  His first patient of the night is chronic “back pain” sufferer ‘Crystal’ who is on a gambit of drugs for her pain. He first takes her to see a Physiotherapist who soon realises that Crystal would need to stay on her medication for quite some time while he treated her. Dr Chris Van Tulleken then comes up with the idea of her meeting a ‘Kung Fu’ expert to try and slowly get her body moving and at the same time start reducing her medication.

You could see how much pain Crystal was in and to my utter amazement after a few months doing ‘Kung Fu’ she could move amazingly well and she was in a lot less pain. It was worth watching the program last night just to see how Crystal improved.

Last week he had another patient who had been on anti-depressants for years and whom he suggested a ‘cold water swim’ to help with this problem. On last night’s episode she was doing well until she went for a swim in a lake on her own where she endured a panic attack and thought she was going to drown. Dr Chris van Tulleken said what she needed was a swimming partner, and a swimming partner she got, which seemed to work the trick for her. Another tick in the box for Tulleken but possibly something that would be hard to sustain with patients at a Doctors surgery with no cold water lake nearby to swim in.

Dr Chris van Tulleken also completed a questionnaire used to assess whether patients have depression. According to his results he said, ” I have moderate depression. I’ll tell you, I do not have moderate depression!”  before pointing out that the questionnaire is available on the NHS website !!!!

His last group of patients were people who were taking drugs to reduce the risk of heart attack’s or stroke’s. He soon comes up with what he believes to be a more sensible alternative ‘walking’. The group he puts together are not impressed but they agree to take part. The results are amazing and even the other Doctors in the practice were shocked but I guess the big question is ‘will half an hour’s walk 5 days a week’, persuade them to keep off the pills?

I found the program totally fascinating and hope a second series will come along to see if Dr Chris van Tulleken has made more progress with his quest to get people off drugs. It’s obvious from the two-part series that many, many people (including me) are on a mixture of drugs to help with a mixture of medical conditions but certainly some of his ideas do work. Whether his new type of treatments can be given to patients I guess will as always boil down to NHS funding and experts in those fields.


  1. hi , I was looking for reviews on this episode and found your blog ….I really enjoyed the programme and Crystal was typical of so many people in chronic pain . I have been working in the field for many years as a physiotherapist and have explored many approaches myself as well as reading a lot about things like neuroplasticity . The key comment the Dr made which is missing in many cases is supported intervention. Its easy to give glib advice but it falls on deaf ears when, as in so many cases the person has few resources and is isolated and or unemployed/depressed. The ‘kung fu’ teacher was brilliant and the mindful approach coupled with acceptance of the ‘pain’ is the key . So much of the pain and distress is a mixed bag of deconditioning /hypersensitivity and fear of making the problem worse. Drs need to be more creative and be open to other options other than the pharma ladder which does’ t work..Many Drs often refer to other practitioners totally unenthusiastically (which is picked up very easily by the patients ) and a half hearted or negative cycle leads to mutual frustration ! There is a Dr up here Des Spence who has been banging on about this for a very long time and ran a column in the BMJ called Bad Medicine …there is a hell of a lot of medicalisation and over prescribing but it would take a revolution to change this !!


    1. Hi Ian,
      Many thanks for your explanatory comment. I basically could not agree with you more with regards to the whole thing and as I said I am on a gambit of drugs for pain but feel it will take a lot of time and money to get a better type of treatment without drugs. We can only wait and see.


  2. I’d like to challenge the doc with your case, Bar – it would be fascinating to see what he would say. I think it’s OK to get people to try alternatives, but you have to be very sure that you know what you’re doing, medically speaking, or you could put people’s lives in danger. Thanks for this very helpful post.


  3. Hi Gill, That would be fascinating for sure. I think this is going to start opening a can or worms with people writing on different ways to manage without your drugs but I’m afraid I won’t be going down that route.


  4. Dear Doctor Van Tulleken,I have given up statins and found that my nervous health has improved .But after a
    blood check my colesterol is still a bit high.The doctor wishes to try another medication I don’t know what to do, I feel that I would like to lower my colesterol with diet. Im over weight 19 stone and tried many diets.
    I find I need Help and advice.


    1. Hi Graham, this link does not go to Doctor Van Tulleken as I just wrote a review on the episode which was on BBC – your best bet would be to go through the BBC website. Thanks for posting .


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