Self-Diagnosing Using the Internet

While self-diagnosing has always been a method for some people, the increasing ease of finding medical information on the internet has left a vast majority relying on “Dr. Google” as their go-to source. But is it the right path to take?

What is Cyberchondria?

Cyberchondria is the official name given to the obsession over searching about medical symptoms and conditions on the internet. Nearly 35 percent of American adults have used the internet to research a possible medical diagnosis for themselves or someone else. Many of these people never got a professional opinion from a doctor or learned if their self-diagnosis was valid or incorrect.

The underlying problem with cyberchrondria is that it could lead to people worrying and rushing to the doctor without a need. On the other hand, people with an injury that needs medical treatment could incorrectly self-diagnose and not see a doctor, potentially putting their health at risk.

diagnostic test

When to See a Doctor

Mild injuries can be treated at home, but if pain persists, or if movement of the body part becomes increasingly difficult, call your doctor immediately. Here are some common conditions and treatments patients try to self diagnose:

Hip Treatment

Symptoms of mild hip injuries, such as a strain, can oftentimes be treated at home. Start with rest, ice, compression and elevation to ease swelling and utilize NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen for pain and discomfort.

If hip pain, groin pain, or swelling persists, schedule an appointment with your physician. Persistent pain in the hip could signal:

  • Hip arthritis
  • A hip labral tear
  • Femoroacetabular impingement
  • A severe hip strain or fracture

Knee Treatment

Knee injuries are often sports related, which can result in pain and swelling, loss of full range of motion, difficulty walking, and stiffness. Symptoms of chronic conditions like knee arthritis are similar but will usually develop over time.

Schedule an appointment if you heard a popping noise at the time of injury, have severe pain, can’t move your knee, have persistent swelling, or you are limping. You could require treatment for:

  • Knee arthritis
  • An ACL, MCL, PCL, or LCL strain or tear
  • A meniscus injury

Shoulder Treatment

Shoulder injuries that happen suddenly, like a rotator cuff tear, a labral tear, a SLAP tear, or a bicep tendon tear, will usually cause intense pain. Symptoms from other conditions, including tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, or a frozen shoulder, may come on slowly or occur with overuse.

The Importance of Getting Diagnosed

As you can see, there can be many reasons for your symptoms, so it’s important to not jump to conclusions. Sometimes, symptoms like those above can just be signs of something small, like a sprain or general soreness. The first line of defense is your doctor. They will be able to tell if your symptoms warrant getting diagnostic imaging. Typically, doctors look for chronic pain and symptoms that have been occurring for a couple months. The second line of defense is a radiologist or other diagnostic physician. In addition to orthopaedic conditions, radiologists can also detect a multitude of conditions including that of the heart, lungs, and other organs.

PET/CT scans, ultrasounds, x-rays, MRI’s, and other diagnostic imaging exams have greatly improved in accuracy and technologically advanced over the years. These tools can provide immense insight on how your body is functioning and differences between even the most similar conditions way more than what you can get from searching online. If you are experiencing any abnormal symptoms, being by going to your doctor, and that will be your quickest path to healing.