- General Health -

Symptom Checker

Heidi Wachter is a health-issue self-diagnoser — and she’s not alone. Are you one too?

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Hi. I’m Heidi. I’m an online health-issue self-diagnoser. A symptom checker.

I’m not alone. You out there, you know who you are. The ones who use sites like Wikipedia, MayoClinic.com and WebMD to research health conditions and solutions. You’re probably fairly healthy and don’t see the point of running to the doctor each time you notice a nagging ache or pain.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of Americans used the Internet for this purpose in 2013 and 95 million Americans used mobile phones as health tools or to find health information. (Read this link for more nifty digital health-related metrics).

It turns out that I’m pretty good at self-diagnosis, too. I correctly diagnosed a ganglion cyst (confirmed by my actual doctor during my annual physical and it is currently nothing to worry about), as well as what turned out to be plantar fasciitis.

I started having pain in my right foot after I stood up for the first time in the morning. For a while, because I’m me and because the pain went away after moving about, I ignored the warning signs. But, then one day after sitting for a while, a stabbing pain happened in my heel after I stood up.

Of course, my first thought was: “I’m dying!” But, after a few minutes of drama and thinking about all the worst possible outcomes, I was spurred to diagnose this condition that was becoming a real pain. I found out the knifing pain was likely a heel spur, a common side symptom for people experiencing plantar fasciitis.

It turns out my symptoms presented like plantar fasciitis even though I’m not a runner. I walk for long periods of time. I stand on hard surfaces a lot when I go see live music. And, I have tight calf muscles.

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All of my online research indicated that the number one treatment for plantar fasciitis is a stretching routine. I figured it made sense to find a routine and try it for a while and see if it helped since my real doctor was likely to tell me to do the same thing.

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So, I did more web research and found a few different routines and started doing them every day.  My symptoms got a lot better pretty quickly (after a few weeks) and the pain in my feet when I stand up is mostly gone now. It flares up occasionally, and when that happens I tend to pay attention to whether my calves feel extra tight for some reason. They usually do.

So, as is often the case for me personally, one of the biggest lessons I learned from my online research was to “live in my body and listen to it.” Our bodies send us some pretty powerful messages if we simply pay attention. (You can read more about my struggles to live in my body here).

(Check this article out for more thoughts on  “What Your Body is Trying to Tell You”).

So, if you are having body trouble, check out our archives, it’s got 11 years of great health and fitness content that might help you. Or, feel free to send me a tweet @ExperienceLife or get in touch via Facebook. I’ll see if we have any information on a topic you’re interested in and share it with our other community members. Another lesson I’ve learned is that if I have a question or problem, likely someone else out there does too, and that is something I find very healing.

Heidi Wachter is the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life. 

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