Between computers, tablets, smartphones, and an app for everything – we have a wealth of Health Information available to us, literally at our fingertips. Gone are the days of not-so-patiently awaiting a visit to your MD or health care provider to get answers. All of this health information on the internet has empowered patients around the world to be more informed and involved in health decisions. We can research, learn of signs & symptoms, treatment options, possible outcomes and make more informed choices regarding our health within minutes. We can show up to an appointment with our health care provider informed, ready to discuss and understanding our health better than ever before.  These days we are even meeting with our health care providers virtually using secure web-based conferencing programs, through Telemedicine.

Why sit, wait and wonder what your diagnosis could be if you could simply search the internet and try to figure it out on your own? It sounds like a no-brainer, right? 

It might be hard to resist, but it’s important to remember that there is A LOT of information available, coming at you from many different sources. Some of them reliable, and some not. It can also be daunting to read about certain conditions of which you may or may not have some symptoms. Does that mean you have this condition? It certainly is no reason to panic just yet.

So how can all of this information be made beneficial to you, without causing undue stress? Before you dig into web searching, review these 3 strategies and take them to heart. (Spoiler alert: your stress level AND your provider will thank you!)

  1. Use sites or sources that you can trust

If you are searching for symptoms or health care terms in a search engine, select the links to reputable health care information websites. There are a lot of sites with user-written content or user-contributions to content, such as in forums, comment sections, review sites or personal blogs. This does not mean not that these sites are necessarily unreliable, however, there is no guarantee that qualified health care professionals have provided the content or that it has been reviewed by one.

To be safe, stick to the well-known sites with contributions from professionals. The Mayo Clinic is an example of a well-known and reliable source of health information. Many local health providers and practices are also offering their tips & expertise themselves on their own websites and blogs for all to learn from.

For example: If you are experiencing knee or back pain, sources you can likely trust are websites and blogs written by physical therapists or orthopedic specialists in your area.  Do some google searching to find local health care providers that are offering their expertise online. This is a reliable source of information as well as a way to help support local practices. 

We are one of those practices. Our therapists are happy to share their expertise with you if you have a question. Did you know we also offer Free Injury Screenings?

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2. Take it with a grain of salt

There is a good chance you will be overloaded with information, and maybe a little scared by what you read on the web. Take it with a grain of salt and bear in mind that your health care providers are highly educated, experienced, and have many tools at their disposal. They also have your complete medical history, understand your risk factors and will likely conduct a physical exam that will give them even more insight about your current condition.  All of these things combined make them the absolute most reliable source for your particular case. 

Remember, one or two matched symptoms do not necessarily mean you have found your diagnosis! Many more factors go into diagnosing a condition than only the matching of symptoms. Only your own health care provider has all of this information and the expertise to weigh each factor appropriately to make a diagnosis.

3. Most importantly, educate yourself rather than self-diagnose

Rather than hopping onto the web determined to figure out what might be wrong with you, reframe the purpose of searching on the internet. Conduct your web research with the intention of learning information that will help you be a better patient and communicator, rather than with the goal in mind of coming to your visit with a fixed idea about your diagnosis.  Researching your symptoms and body systems can help you be prepared to communicate and understand your provider. You will likely have a  better idea of what might be happening in your body and why that might be.  You will then be able to have a more productive discussion with your provider and begin exploring possible treatment options, making an informed decision regarding your care having done some preliminary research.

Ever felt that you had not keyed your provider in on all that you had wanted to? Having thought about it ahead of time and communicating effectively will help you to make the best of your visit!

Put this tip to practice… for example, in your research on the web, think about how symptoms and sensations are described in the content you’re reading. What key terms are used? Understanding and using these terms appropriately will help you to more effectively relay what you are experiencing to your provider. 

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By |2022-07-18T16:10:18+00:00July 18th, 2022|Helpful Tips|Comments Off on 3 Strategies To Reframe The Way You Web-Search Symptoms

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About the Author:

Colleen Schutt has held various positions at Onondaga PT over the years and you may have seen her in any of our 5 locations. Colleen is currently our Director of Marketing. She is passionate about spreading the word to the community that Onondaga Physical Therapy is the best choice when you need to return to living, working and playing even better when an injury has set you back.
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