Liam Farrell: Neurologists just love a headache

When I was a lad, we used to reckon the chapter on neurology in Macleod's Clinical Examination to be the most boring thing ever devised. Since then, Harry Potter, The English Patient, watching curling on TV, Jedward, Jordan and Cheryl Cole have all submitted valiant efforts to take the title, but nothing will ever quite match up to that leviathan of tedium from an older and long-vanished world.

It's probably my memory playing tricks, of course, not just the boring chapter itself, but all that I associate with it; lanky youths in dingy flats, Leonard Cohen tapes on a cheap cassette recorder late at night in dimly-lit rooms, the lost innocence of the sixties lapsing into the directionless seventies. They had Woodstock, we had disco.

Not that I have anything against neurologists because of this, I insist; it's most definitely not because of any deep and lingering resentment that I so enjoy sending them headaches. Far from it, what young GPs may not appreciate is that specialists love this kind of stuff, having their clinical skills tested to the utmost, being stretched to their limits, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth.

That's why they became doctors in the first place, isn't it? Just as our deepest, darkest, and most clandestine desires involve an exotic cocktail of sick certs, URTIs and passport application forms, so do orthopods dream at night of fertile golden fields of patients with low back pain.

Gastroenterologists would dance till dawn with irritable bowel syndrome, the heart of a rheumatologist goes all a-flutter with unconsummated desire at the very thought of fibromyalgia, and gynaecologists shudder with a visceral, unholy delight at the prospect of yet another prolapsed vaginal wall.

I'll bet the neurologists say: 'Hey, wow, brilliant, a headache, this is great, thanks a million for the referral, you guys are so generous and giving, I love a challenge, some big pathology here, I'm sure. I wish I had some medical students so I could elucidate all the spectacular and enlightening clinical signs the patient with a headache will undoubtedly display; I just wish I could give every one of them a big cuddle.

'And, of course, an expensive and totally unnecessary brain scan.'

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