Doctor Google

October 6, 2018

Sherrie Hebert

Say your shoulder hurts. The pain is dull at times, and then it can be very sharp when you raise it or rotate it backwards, especially when lifting something. The pain also moves into the neck at times. When you google your symptoms, WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, VeryWellHealth and Healthline all suggest you may have one or more of the following:


Frozen shoulder



Pinched nerve

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rotator cuff injury

Separated shoulder

Shoulder arthritis

Sprain or strain


Tendon rupture

Torn cartilage

You are thinking, “Holy cow! I am a mess. Am I going to need surgery?”

With our favorite search engines at our fingertips, we become “pros” at self-diagnosing our aches and pains. A 2013 Pew Research Center study of 3,014 adults indicated that 35 percent of Americans “say that at one time or another they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.”

Of those who had done an internet search, 46 percent were convinced they needed advice from a medical professional, 38 percent said they could take care of the issue at home and 11 percent said both applied. (“Health Online 2013”, Pew Research Center, January 2013)

When choosing not to seek medical advice when recommended in an internet search and ignoring the pain, you may be missing a serious issue, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which may lead to further complications that could have been avoided had you done so.

Then there are those who visit a doctor soon after experiencing various aches and pains. If the issue does require medical advice, the visit is productive. Should the injury be bursitis or a sprain in the case of the sore shoulder, self-treatment could be an effective solution.

Self-diagnosis not only encourages a decision based on a few symptoms, it can lead to undue anxiety and fear of the worst-case scenario such as rheumatoid arthritis or shoulder surgery that will take months to heel. Additionally you will incur the costs for doctor visits and lost work days.

The choice is yours whether or not to pursue medical advice from your internet-based self-diagnosis, but be sure to include common sense in your decision and not rely only on Doctor Google.

Sherrie Hebert is a certified personal trainer and Pilates mat and equipment Instructor. She teaches and trains at Performance Pilates and Gold’s Gym of Pocatello. As an established Idaho State Journal columnist, Sherrie has provided health and fitness information and guidance to her readers for over four years.

Contact her at 208-317-5685 or sherriehebert@gmail.com and visit her Facebook page, Performance Pilates.

Update hourly