It's no mystery why people (health professionals included) occasionally go online to figure out what could be causing their (or someone else's) aches, pains, or other symptoms. The accessibility and convenience of the internet is unparalleled.
There is plenty of great information on the internet - no doubt about it. But sifting through the misinformation can be tricky. Some of you may already know my stance on the internet as a health resource and if not, you can quickly find out what it is by reading the "About drwentzell.com" section of my website. Knowing that there is an abundance of health-related misinformation out there was the driving force behind me starting a blog.
I've overhead conversations in the gym, on public transit and other places where people are talking about their aches and pains, and their diagnosis which they received from Wikipedia, Google, etc. As a health professional, this is troubling for many reasons.
Is the blog written by a healthcare professional? Many professionals from various healthcare disciplines have blogs. They have spent several years of their lives obtaining the knowledge and understanding of how the body works so they can best provide the general public their professional opinion regarding what is causing their symptomatology and what the best plan of action is to remedy their complaint. However, nothing read on a blog should be supplemented as a consultation with someone from your healthcare team. The information found on these websites/blogs can be great, but context is needed for a diagnosis to be made. For instance, websites or blogs are often laid out in such a way that if "A" hurts, it's because of "B", so do "C, D, and E" to fix the problem. If only it could consistently* be this simple...
*Yes, sometimes it is that simple - but do you want to roll the dice with your body/health?
When I or other health professionals are assessing a complaint dealing with any part of the body, we must make a list of possible diagnoses and then start eliminating them through a process consisting of numerous questions (some seemingly random at times) and a focused physical exam. In regards to the physical exam for issues arising from the neuro-musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles, nervous system, etc.), the area that is hurting can often times be caused by an area of the body that is symptom-free. Assessment of these symptom-free areas may be essential to managing the complaint properly. If you're focused on your pain, how much attention do you give the areas that aren't hurting? Also, it should go without saying that if it looks like the problem is caused by something outside the scope of the consulting professional, they should be sending you to someone else who can more appropriately deal with the issue.
Another issue that often includes the use of Google or various websites has to do with self-diagnosis. If I get an ache or pain my mind starts racing.
"Where am I hurt?"
"What did I do to cause the injury?"
"What seems to relieve my symptoms?"
Etc. etc. etc.
The problem is most people can't be objective about their complaint. People (including myself) can overanalyze their issue causing unintentional bias towards a certain diagnosis. If alarm bells starting ringing in the form of pain somewhere in the body, fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions can flood their system. It's not unusual for people to start thinking of the worst case scenario with regards to an symptoms they've never had before. That's why I have a colleague assess a new complaint of mine soon after I experience an alarming ache or pain so they can give me an unbiased diagnosis and recommendations going forward.
As you can see, my issues are not with using Dr. Google. My issues are with using Dr. Google in isolation. It is my goal to have all my patients understand what is causing their issue to the point where they can repeat it back to me. I encourage them to ask questions and I stress the importance of them leaving without any unanswered questions. If they want to read into diagnosis or treatment methods online, that is great. I think it's great when patients are genuinely interested in what is going on with their body.
Your healthcare team is there for a reason. Do not undervalue your health by practicing guesswork online.