Active & injury free: Is WebMD a good resource for pain syndromes?

By Dr. Tom Cotter

The internet has become the greatest resource of information in this day and age. Instead of having to buy “how-to” books, we can now find videos on YouTube. Encyclopedias are no longer needed as we have Wikipedia. We can even learn physics from professors around the world instead of enrolling in the local college. And it is often believed that we can use websites like WebMD instead of heading to your local doctor. But is WebMD a good website for diagnosis and treatment?

Dr. Tom Cotter and Dr. Jeff Remsburg

WebMD does have information regarding most injuries. However, trying to correctly match your symptoms to a condition on WebMD is very difficult. We have had a huge amount of patients come into our office with a “diagnosis” they found online. Usually, these diagnoses are wrong. People mistake piriformis syndrome for herniated discs, or Achilles tendinosis for plantar fasciitis. The reason people often come up with the wrong diagnosis is because they only have limited information about their condition, such as where and when it hurts. If this was the only information we could use, then we would often misdiagnose conditions as well. A thorough examination is the only way we can distinguish something like shin splints from a stress fracture.

But let’s say you are able to correctly diagnose yourself using an online website. Can you now use the information on recommended self-treatment? Not necessarily. Take for instance the treatment recommendations on low back pain. Most will advise you to perform strengthening exercises and various stretches. But which muscles should you strengthen and which should you stretch? Low back pain is often due to muscular imbalance, meaning certain muscles are too tight, while others are too weak. If you try to strengthen every muscle, your symptoms won’t really change. If you try to stretch the weak muscles, you’ll make the problem worse. Again, a proper examination is needed to find out which specific muscles should be targeted. To further complicate the issue, low back pain can also be caused by nerve entrapments or disc herniations, in which case only very specific exercises will improve symptoms.

In closing, we’re not going to pretend that everybody reading this will stop using WebMD. However, if you have been using the website and haven’t been improving with the recommended self-treatment, it’s probably time for an examination by a qualified rehabilitation provider.

This weekly sponsored post is written by Dr. Tom Cotter and Dr. Jeff Remsburg of Active Health Solutions, a Prairie Village-based chiropractor and rehab practice that uses the most current evidence-based protocols and techniques to assess and treat patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions (disorders of the nerves, joints, and muscles). Call 913-341-1200 or email to schedule your appointment today.