Feeling unwell? Don’t Google, go to the doctor


Source: healthcentral.com -
Source: healthcentral.com –

When it comes to finding information about anything, Google can be a very useful tool.

But in as much as it can direct you to reliable sources, it also has the ability to take you down a rabbit hole of uncertainty, especially when it comes to health-related searches.

Which is why many health practitioners advise people to resist the urge to google their symptoms and instead visit their doctor.

I’ve been in quarantine from May 23-June 4.

My son tested positive for covid19, and although he was the only one with symptoms in the house, everyone in the household was included in the quarantine order. That meant two weeks away from school for him, again, and working from home for me.

Working remotely is not something that’s new to me; I’ve been doing it for years, even pre-covid, albeit then it was with the whole house to myself.

For the most part, during the pandemic I got used to the presence of other people in my space while I worked, but that didn’t mean I liked it.

So while my period of quarantine came with its usual and additional challenges – the constant cleaning, sanitising, monitoring a sick child and having to talk to people, all while having to work – the part that caused the most distress was the lower back pains I had been experiencing for over a month, and for which I had a doctor’s appointment two days after the start of my quarantine order, but had to cancel.

But since I wasn’t able to go to see the doctor, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the doctor to me.

In hindsight, not one of my best decisions and one that led to cyberchondria – the anxiety-amplifying effects of online health-related searches.

Dr Google and I were able to narrow down the cause of the pains to a few self-diagnosed conditions. Who knew that there were so many lower back pains causes specific to women?

Thanks to 13 days of no work commute, no running errands, plenty of pre- and post-work hours, a laptop, reliable internet service and severe pain, the virtual doctor and I fingered the culprits as endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, muscle strain, sciatica, a herniated disc, or disc degeneration.

Pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder were on the list but we ruled them out.

But then, with a little more time and encouragement from the good doctor, I discovered it could also be caused by something much more serious.

Some cancers can cause back pain, among them spinal tumours, lung cancer, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, blood cancers; and undiagnosed skin cancer can also spread to the spine and cause back pain.

Now I was more certain I was on the home stretch heading to the light, and, like Sir Anthony Hopkins in the 1998 movie Meet Joe Black, I began hearing the voice of death. Every night, I was sure, was going to be my last.

Source: cbsnews.com –

Fortunately, Dr Google was kindly able to direct me to some at-home remedies to ease my pain, if not my mind.

I used a heating pad, took warm baths, bought over-the-counter painkillers and muscle relaxants, exercised and did gentle stretching, strategically placed a pillow between or under my knees, depending on how I slept, and got good lumbar support.

They all helped, but temporarily, so I figured I might have to resort to one or more of the other options suggested by Dr Google – cortisone injections, hormonal birth control, antidepressants, chemo or surgery – all of which I will pitch to my real doctor when I see her on Tuesday morning.

My gut feeling, though, is that instead of looking at my back pains in isolation, she will want to do a series of tests before giving a diagnosis and advising on treatment, in keeping with the years she spent training to become a doctor, unlike Dr Google.

Who knows, I just might have a good few years ahead of me yet.

I’ll keep you posted!

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