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It’s only natural. You’ve been feeling pain in your upper back and neck for a while. You’ve also noticed your arm hurts and you’re starting to feel a tingly “pins and needles” sensation. So you do what EVERYONE with a smart phone or computer does these days – you ask Dr. Google. Just remember that online sources vary widely in credibility. Without medical education, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and worst-case scenarios.
When you’re searching for the cause of your symptoms on the internet, you might find that the online diagnoses tend to escalate quickly… alarmingly quickly. These sites may include a list of scary complications or symptoms that are red flags for which you should seek immediate medical attention. Many times, those symptoms are super vague and could apply to anything. Feeling lightheaded? Seek immediate medical attention! Feeling fatigued? Call 911!
While it’s frustrating, there’s a good reason why many REPUTABLE online medical information websites tend to catastrophize even the most benign symptoms and ailments. Their goal is to get you to contact your primary care physician to follow up.
Let’s take a look at our hypothetical symptom search. You’ve been feeling pain in your upper back and neck for a while. You’ve also noticed your arm hurts and you’re starting to feel a tingly “pins and needles” sensation. When you typed in your symptoms, you may have seen “T4 syndrome” offered as a possible diagnosis. As you read the symptoms, you realize that if you look at your hands for long enough, you could swear they’re turning blue.
What you may not know is T4 syndrome is a rare yet deceptive issue that can present in many different ways. In other words, you may or may not have T4 syndrome or T4 damage. To find out if you do, you’ll need to see your physician or chiropractor. T4 syndrome can be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, myofascial pain syndromes, cervical spine degenerative conditions, thoracic outlet syndrome, cardiac pain or pain originating from the viscera. Dr. Danielle has the training and tools that allow her to make a medical diagnosis.
Dr. Google isn’t a licensed practicing physician – it’s a search engine that indexes and catalogs the trillions of web pages published to the internet. So while Google does its best to provide you with the most accurate information, how you word that search will greatly determine the quality of the results you see.
For example, when a member of the general public searches for symptom information online, they will see different information displayed than when Dr. Danielle Hurd, DC types those same symptoms into the very same search engine.
There are two reasons for this. First, Dr. Danielle will use medical terminology when composing her search query. This effectively weeds out the unreliable results that might appear in a “general” search. Second, Google know you and your typical search patterns. For example, let’s say your typical search pattern takes you to “hysterical cat videos” on the reg. When you suddenly start searching for the cause of your wrist pain, Google knows you’re not a primary care physician. That’s why it’s not going to show you peer reviewed research publications in your search. While Google may know your search patterns, but it doesn’t know your individual health history.
There’s nothing wrong with searching for your symptoms online. You should educate yourself . You should ask questions. You should consider yourself a partner with your physician or chiropractor in your own medical care.
Dr. Danielle Hurd, DC encourages her patients to be active participants in their own care. When you come into her office with information you’ve found online, it provides a great starting point for the conversation.