Holland Expat – The Doctor Said What?

08 Dec

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 9.15.30 PMMy first doctor’s appointment was this week, and even though I was forewarned, I found it a bit disappointing. What was I warned about? The Dutch Healthcare view on pain.

Yes, I read about it and heard that you have to really push for what you want or what you think you need, I was still taken aback.

Three weeks ago I cut to the inside of our steep stairway to bypass something and slipped missing the last few steps completely. One  shoulder hit the handrail, but most of my weight fell squarely on my lower back across the lip of a step. The fact that I walked away from the fall shocked my husband who sent me straight to bed taking pain medicine and laying on a heating pad.

My back was not too bad and my range of motion was only a little impaired. The hope was it would improve on its own. The pain migrated though. A few days mid-back, a week left-center on top, (a series of audible pops) and the next week across it went to the right. The hoped for relief did not come, so I made the appointment with G.P. (i.e. General Practitioner, huisart in Dutch). (For more info on finding a GP in the Netherlands visit here.)

This was the story and symptoms given to the doctor. His questions were pointed and aimed at determining if there was back bone damage: Did the pain radiate down my hip or leg? Did it radiate down my arms? Did I experience tingling or loss of feeling anywhere? Was I urinating normally? No, I said. No, and no, and no.

The examination was non-existent. I left my three layers on and stood imitating a few bends forward and back, left and right, arms over head and telling him how much the pain changed with movement. He declared my issue muscular (maybe it all is) and prescribed…(you ready for this?) swimming.

Say what?

He said, “Swimming. It uses the muscles evenly, and the water relaxes them.”

“Just swimming?” I said.

“And paracetamol around the clock for one week.”

“Is that like ibuprofen or acetaminophen?” I asked.

“No, no. They are NSAID, used for pain and inflammation. Paracetamol is for pain only and more pain reducing. You can buy it anywhere,” he said. Then he wrote out a referral for physical therapy that I might try after a week if the swimming did not work, but he also said, physio “doesn’t really do much for alignment and back. It’s all muscles work.” Huh…that’s not what my physical therapy was like the US.

I left wondering if my health insurance would spring for my pool membership since it’s what the doctor ordered. I also thought maybe Paracetamol was a better pain-killer than what I commonly used. Unfortunately I discovered Paracetamol is in fact the same thing as acetaminophen. My confidence in that particular physician is pretty well shot. I’ll ask for someone else when I return to the clinic.

In the States I would have expected a muscle relaxer like Flexirol instead of water and a prescription strength dose of naproxen at the very least. The Dutch position on pain, though, is that it’s a good thing and not to be treated unless too severe to cope. So people who want a prescribed medicine exaggerate their suffering and suggest to the doctor what they need. I think one upside of this is that their socialized health system probably saves a fortune.

BTW–Dutch dogs don’t have to live with their pain, which is no surprise considering my first experiences of KingDogdom (link here). My dog got an immediate shot for pain and a chewable-treat pain-killer for twice a day at home that was so tasty (according to the vet) that I had to hide them to avoid over consumption. (More about the vet visit here.)

My husband said, I should have taken the dog to the vet, described his “fall” and symptoms and taken whatever the vet gave him. I’d probably be feeling better by now, but I’m concerned about my self-control and how tasty the treats might really be. At least I’m not hunting for a dog pool right now.


Kristin King is an American author recently relocated to the Netherlands. To peruse her novels and author information visit this link.

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1 Comment

Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Living in Holland


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One response to “Holland Expat – The Doctor Said What?

  1. Anonymous

    December 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Wow. Very informative.


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