When dealing with pain, it’s very tempting to turn to the ubiquitous oracle known as Google to find a solution. And there certainly is plenty of pain advice to be had on the Interwebs!
Just visit Google.com’s home page and type “pain in…” and suggested searches instantly appear: “left side,” “right arm,” “right side….” All you have to do is click and away you go to receive a plethora of interpretations, possible diagnoses, and suggestions for treating that pain.
Some of these information providers are well-known experts, such as the prestigious Mayo Clinic. How can you argue with the Mayo Clinic, right? There are plenty of less equipped providers of advice, too, from entities whose business models are often focused on the revenue generated from the ads they serve around their health content.
Lastly, there are the forums, where everyday people dealing with pain share long stories—mostly of the horror variety—about their myriad symptoms and what each contributor has personally tried in order to treat themselves.
The problem is, even with the most experienced of these web-based sources, the people and learned professionals providing the information have never seen your body. They have no idea of your history. They don’t know what kind of work environment you find yourself in all day long. They’ve never seen you move.
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, for example, is it due to the fact that you have a job that requires repetitive motion, and that puts daily strain on your shoulder? If that is indeed the explanation, but you’d also had a pretty bad car accident a few years ago that caused upper body injuries, do you think the treatment for you should be the same as for someone who’d never experienced such a traumatic physical event? What about if you had previously been diagnosed with arthritis? Or played baseball on a regular basis?
The Internet doesn’t know you. Choosing an Internet-provided solution to your pain can be not only pointless, but detrimental to your health or wallet.
For example, let’s say you’re experiencing that shoulder pain. A few websites report that you could have bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis, or even a fracture. Well, you’re pretty sure it’s not a fracture. You think that would hurt a lot more. So, you begin to treat yourself for inflammation, probably with ibuprofen or some other anti-inflammatory drug, and maybe you ice it.
A few things can happen. You were right, the problem is resolved, and as long as your gastrointestinal tract has handled the drug well, the pain disappears and no ill side effects result. Hopefully, it will stay gone.
Or, you try all of that, and the pain persists. You up the anti-inflammatory and the icing, add some heat, maybe you even stop playing baseball on Saturdays, but although the pain seems a bit more tolerable it doesn’t go away, and now you’ve got a raw stomach from all of that ibuprofen as well.
Or, despite all of your best attempts to apply all that Internet advice to yourself, the pain becomes even more intense. You end up having to take some time off work to visit the doctor and possibly to recover from an injury that has been worsened by inappropriate treatment.
None of this Internet diagnosis and treatment advice takes into account that you are the only you in existence.
What the Internet can’t do is make a sophisticated diagnosis of your pain that includes the historical, environmental and other factors that make you a unique human being with a unique human body.
Your body deserves better. Turn to a pain resolution specialist first instead.