I Think…Therefore I Hurt?

It would be unwise to think that pain is purely physical. When patients report to my office, they often come self-diagnosed based on their Ph.D in google searches. “I have pain, and I think it’s _____” is a phrase I’ve come to know and love. But what patients don’t know is that self-diagnosis has a dark side. If you walk into a doctor’s office already believing you have a certain condition, your subconscious will make sure you behave in a way that matches that belief. In other words, you BECOME the condition before you even confirm you have it. This can create a plethora of symptoms that are largely worsened by negative beliefs.

If it’s not a google search that exacerbates a patient’s negative belief, it is another false idol of healthcare: Diagnostic Imaging. Patients are becoming increasingly anxious to get X-ray or MRI’s to confirm their diagnosis, often putting pressure on doctors to order said tests. Even though with a little bit of research, you will discover that your faith in imaging might be misplaced. For example, about 80% of asymptomatic (no pain reported) individuals will exhibit disc degeneration on MRI. 60% of those people will have some degree of disc bulging or herniation. 22% of asymptomatic individuals will show rotator cuff tears on MRI. 19% of asymptomatic people show a degree of meniscal tearing in their knees. You get the point.

The precedent on which our legal system is based is “innocent until proven guilty.” You need to think of your health in the same way. Do not burden your psyche with undue stress. If you’re feeling pain then look at is as just that: pain. Don’t aggrandize your symptoms into an entire condition. Instead, just trust your doctor and more importantly, trust yourself that whatever you’re going through is manageable.

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