Healthcare Be Your Own Patient Advocate In Japan

This article applies to those who work on base and are unable to see a doctor due to priority levels but is intended more for expats. So, either way, don't totally dismiss this important information about medical care off base as you may have a family member visit that needs medical treatment (medicine specifically).

All doctors aren't created equal in Japan, this most likely applies to ones in the States as well as around the world too. That is most likely why you often hear the phrase, "Seek a second opinion."

A doctor: Seek a second opinion if necessary

Today, after about 20 days of calf pain, I finally visited an internal medicine clinic. The doctor merely pressed on my muscle and determined that it was only muscle pain—but, I know my own body and knew something else was wrong as I haven't been stressing my legs with exercise recently.

He prescribed me Loxoprofen, something that they adamantly said was stronger than ibuprofen. While that might be true, it's merely a combination of NSAIDs, to include ibuprofen.

Loxoprofen & ibuprofen: Which is stronger? It depends on the type of pain.

The medical translator that I had with me at the time accepted the doctor's orders as it's customary to go with the doctor's opinion in Japan. However, I refused to pick the medication up and went to an ER off base.

As the pain kept increasing while being somewhat sedentary and resting over the past 20 days—I know, I should've gone in sooner—it being a weekend, there was no other option than going into the ER and paying a bit more as over the past 3 days, the pain got to the point where it almost brought me to my knees the night before going downstairs.

In high school, I wanted to become a pharmacy technician prior to joining the military as I knew the pay was relatively good, but I was lacking a degree, which I didn't know was a requirement at the time. During those years, I took plenty of time to study different classes of drugs, the effects on the body, etc.

While I didn't become a pharmacy tech, I did take and pass the DSST Substance Abuse test, which transferred into the University of Maryland Global Campus as an 3-sh upper-level elective course, helping me get my degree quicker than most.

Though, back on topic:

The ER checked whether it was thrombosis, or a clot rather, as I had an abnormal lump the night before too, However since there were no findings of that, he went with muscle as well. Nonetheless, he was more sympathetic to the pain that I was going through.

I know that opioids are illegal in Japan, except under certain circumstances such as cancer, but was unaware of the 2013 approval of Tramadol for pain.

After little research, I translated Tramadol to Japanese and showed it to my doctor after confirming that it exists here by using this Google trick, which not only shows you if it's available but also shows the price without Japanese insurance, which is relatively cheap all things considered:

site:e-pharma.jp トラマドール

Which resulted in the listings of Tramadol. Therefore, I knew it was available in Japan.

トラマドール塩酸塩・アセトアミノフェン配合剤錠 のプロ検索結果 1ページ目|医薬品検索イーファーマ

If nothing comes up, don't be alarmed. You may need to search for generic names as well as brand names used in Japan and Europe, easily attainable by Google too.

He agreed to prescribe me just enough Tramadol hopefully get better but also enough to schedule an appointment to see a clinic that specializes in pain during the weekdays as he saw my physical pain. As such, I'm now feeling just fine. I hope that it's just a muscle and not a partial/tendon tear which he alluded to as a possibility, but, we'll come to that when the time comes.

Tramadol: One of the strongest legal, if prescribed, pain relievers in Japan

If there are results, the medication is in Japan. It's up to you to determine how many milli/grams/iu you need of which medication and speak with a doctor about it. If they disagree with you, seek a second opinion as it's very inexpensive to do so. Just be aware that if you're looking for medications that involve needles, that's not diabetes, you might have to visit that clinic in order to get a shot as syringes are a controlled item in Japan.

Syringes are illegal and a controlled item in Japan. In most cases, a nurse or doctor needs to administer medicine this route (may not apply to diabetics)

I hope this information is helpful to you in order to find what you need for your case as I have for mine, this time, and multiple other times throughout the years using the same method described here.
The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of Okinawa.Org.
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David
David is the Founder of Okinawa.Org. When he's not busy with business and administrative dealings on the site, he's out looking for the smallest things in the largest areas that may be overlooked by many.

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I got critical feedback over Facebook for this post due to posting about Tramadol over holistic treatments.

This is not, and I repeat, not, an endorsement of Tramadol over Tylenol, ibuprofen, aspirin, turmeric, etc. until you heal.

I merely attached a personal and specific story of how I find medications in Japan if a doctor is to prescribe me one that doesn't work when I know it won't work from past experiences. The tools outlined above will greatly help you or a family member find medication in Okinawa / Japan if perhaps they lose their luggage with it inside or forget it behind. These questions are quite often asked a lot in groups and, again, the tool will help you help them (or themselves) find which medication they need to take under another brand name sold in Japan/Europe as not all US medications are available here.

You can use the simple translation and Google search to locate that one drug and make your trip to the hospital a whole lot quicker and easier with the language barrier because you can show them the name and ask for the amount needed.

If your main focus on this was Tramadol and not how to find medications or learn that syringes are controlled items in Japan, then, respectfully, you missed the moral of the story.
 

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