With the Internet at our finger tips, many of us use the crazy amount of information available on the World Wide Web as our first point of reference for our health. No? Don’t kid yourself.
So, are we all becoming hypochondriacs with the help of technology?
My generation still does not completely trust the Internet. We grew up with it and we learnt to question it as much as we relied upon it. What about the younger generation then? Do they just accept all they read and find on the Internet?
A few days ago, I found a lump behind my ear. It felt like part of the bone structure behind my ear, but it was bulging on the right (and not on the left). Concerned, but not in any pain, I went online the next day to check on what it was. Google spat out loads of photographs of cases worse than mine, with loads of pages from health authorities with explanation on what it is; an inflamed lymph node due to the body fighting a bug or infection. So, the Internet told me that if it didn’t get any worse, it is not serious and should go away after a while.
I had been feeling like I was fighting a bug of some sort, so I put it down to that, but I still did not want to trust the Internet completely. Feeling tired and under the weather, I went to see my GP. I had another reason for seeing the GP too, which I will tell you about later. My GP looked and felt behind my ear and told me, “that is just a swollen lymph node”. He asked if I was in pain or anything and I told him no, and that I was feeling like I was suppressing a cold or flu. He told me that my body is probably just fighting that, which is causing the lymph node to swell. I asked him if I should be concerned and he said that if it was still there in three to four weeks, then I should come back. Otherwise, it should just go away.
Part of me felt silly to have seen the GP, but part of me was pissed off that the Internet was right. Part of me wondered if the GP was right and if we need GPs anymore. Surely we only just need specialist doctors now, since we can get our diagnosis online? Now THAT is a VERY SCARY THOUGHT. It is not that I wanted it to be anything more, but I was hoping that the GP could enlighten me with information that was NOT on the Internet already. I wanted the GP to care… but more and more, I feel that the Internet, soulless as it actually is, cares more.
Anyway, my other reason for seeing the GP was to get a referral to see my physiotherapist due to a pain in my right calf. I had a niggling pain for over a week now and it doesn’t seem to want to go away, so I thought I had better get it seen. After a few questions, the GP wrote my referral letter and I went to see my physiotherapist today. Turns out that I strained my calf muscle. It was a gradual strain, not a sudden injury, which seemed to have been caused by the last two months of energetic activities (gym and running). My physiotherapist told me not to run the 10K this Sunday, which I am a little disappointed about, but I can always run a 10K at anytime once I have sorted out this pain. I can still do other low impact stuff at the gym to keep my fitness level up which is good.
She gave my right calf a really good massage (which was bloody painful) and told me to keep it rested and do gentle stretches. I love doing stretches, pushing further when it starts hurting, but alas, I have been told now stretches should be gentle when you have an injury or it will be counter-productive. That just means that I have been doing it all wrong in the last week… stretching and stretching and stretching the part that hurts.
So, my experience this week tells me that 1) my GP needs a holiday and perhaps when he is more relaxed, he will be able to show me that he cares. He is helpful with referral letters and confirming my diagnosis, but he seems to want to only agree with everything I say to get rid of me; and 2) my physiotherapist cares and is very effective with her treatment. The fact that my GP is with the NHS and my physiotherapist is private may have something to do with the way they practice medicine, but part of me (with faith in people) does not want to believe that.
I can of course argue this from the point of view that I perhaps have more respect for my physiotherapist because I was not able to give myself a proper diagnosis on my calf pain with information from the Internet, but then we go a full circle with this article. Back to the Internet.
Everything in the World as we know it is going through changes because of progress in technology and the increase in information distributed on the Internet. So, what is going to happen to the world of medicine practice? We will always need our doctors, but will they want us as patients if we’re going to self-diagnose like the clever-clogs we are? And being clever-clogs, will we question our doctors more now and is that a good or bad thing? I suspect that the answer will be vague and will start with… “it depends…”