Getting Lost in Internet Research

I would guess that more than 90% of my patients have spent time looking into their symptoms trying to self-diagnose their problems on the web before making an appointment with me. It’s only natural and mostly helpful for patients to better understand what might be causing their problems. The web is a vast resource of knowledge comprised of everything from articles, online forums, research, opinions and more. I can guarantee that you’ll get a TON of information on almost any topic you choose. Any there lies part of the problem; there are so many opinions that it’s almost impossible to decide which one is right.

If you compare health care choices to financial choices it might create some clarity.

  • What’s the best treatment plan?
  • What’s the best financial strategy?

Is there really a “correct” answer? “Put your money under your mattress! Put your money in the stock market!” The answer depends on more factors than I can list here such as: Your experiences with money, your philosophy of investment, your aversion to risk, etc, etc…

I think part of the issue is that when we start to research a project (our health, how to build a shed or what’s wrong with our broken dishwasher) we assume that we will, with enough clicking and digging, find the answer we are looking for. While this is true for so many what we’ll call “End Point” projects (How to fix my dishwasher), it won’t work for finding the exact right answer for your health issue.

I’ve referenced Dr. Jerome Groopman’s book; “Your Medical Mind.” many times in my articles and this quote says it all. “If medicine were an exact science like mathematics, there would be one correct answer for each problem. Your preference to treatment would be irrelevant to what is “right”. But medicine is an inexact science.”

I would again highly suggest this book especially important is Chapter 3 titled “But Is It Best for Me?” where a patient gets lost in trying to decide whether and what type of prostate surgery he should have. There are studies and research to support all the various methods and what is recommended in the United States is different that what’s recommended in Europe. There is no right answer. The patient gets so overwhelmed with information it paralyzes his decision process. That’s how we arrive with the feeling of being caught in the MC Escher painting above.

My recommendation on internet health research:

1. Do your homework, but limit your overall time to a predetermined amount (x hours).
2. Get a better understand of how your body works and its anatomy.
3. Grade your pain accurately using the F.I.D method (more on this next month).
a. Frequency
b. Intensity
c. Duration
4. Research some of the most common options for treating your problem. (Rest, taping, etc)
a. Try these options before spending money on a doctor’s visit.
b. Be honest with yourself about your improvement (or lack of) with your self-treatment.
5. Go to your doctor’s visit informed.
a. Ask for a visual interpretation from your doctor if you need one.
b. Ask questions: all physicians have a time limit but they should not be dismissive of any questions you have about a recommended treatment plan.
c. Make sure your doctor will amend the treatment plan if you heal faster or slower than expected.
6. Be honest about your goals and the time needed to repair.
a. If you really want to run that Spring marathon, you NEED to get treatment plan ASAP

Use the web resources to your advantage, not to confuse you. Building a relationship (when the time is right) with your doctor though one on one personal contact will create a lifetime resource for helping you out through the maze of life. Good luck

Dr. Michael Cerami is a local Utah sports chiropractor and triathlete who has been treating patients for over 25 years. He writes a weekly patient blog and monthly athlete article for community education on a wide variety of topics including treating sports injuries, nutrition, exercise, motivation and wellness.

2016-11-30T03:52:50+00:00 March 27th, 2013|