Most diagnoses sound terrifying. Here are some incredibly common ones; degenerative disc disease, frozen shoulder (aka adhesive capsulitis), and impingement syndrome.
Why do they sound so scary, and why are they less important than most people think?
Let’s start with the first question, “Why do they sound so scary?”
When you get a diagnosis, the diagnosis isn’t for you. That may sound counterintuitive, but it all makes sense once you look past the surface.
If the diagnosis isn’t for you, who is it for?
Diagnoses are for the doctors who are treating you, and for the insurance companies they bill for their services.
A diagnosis gives the physician a framework to direct their problem-solving strategies. Here’s an example; If you go into the emergency room and say, ”My arm hurts,” putting you into a cast could be a catastrophe. Maybe your arm is broken, or maybe you have an infection, or maybe you were bitten by a snake. It’s an absurd example, but it illustrates the point. Each condition requires a different approach.
Having a diagnosis streamlines the process and minimizes errors.
In regards to insurance companies, they use the diagnosis provided by the physician to determine how much money they need to pay for your treatment.
A diagnosis sounds pretty important, right?
But we just said it’s LESS important than most people think; how does that work?
The diagnosis is crucial if you’re practicing medicine and navigating the bureaucracy of the medical industry; it’s significantly less important if you’re the person who’s getting out of pain so you can get your life back.
It’s less important because you are not your diagnosis.
You’re far more than a bundle of symptoms and a code that gets added to an insurance claim to be billed for X amount of dollars.
You have current limitations, but you also have current capacities.
You might be in pain, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Degenerative disc disease and disc injuries a perfect examples.
In this STUDY, 81.4% of people without back pain had a lumbar disc herniation.
If these people had received a diagnosis based on an MRI, they would’ve been told they had disc degeneration, and that’s why they were in pain.
Except they had no pain.
You are NOT your diagnosis. There are likely thousands of pain-free people walking around right now with your same exact diagnosis.
You don’t have to limit your future based on a label you were given for your injury, which brings us to our last point.
The dark side of diagnoses.
The scarier the diagnosis sounds, the more likely other people will try to profit from it. Unfortunately, this applies across the board.
Sometimes it happens in the medical world as they funnel you from one test to another until you arrive at the point of surgery.
This is rarely the fault of physicians but rather the system they’re forced to function within. So you must prepare yourself before you ever set foot in a doctor’s office.
Come prepared with questions like:
Are there alternative diagnoses?
How did you conclude that X diagnosis is the right one?
What are my least invasive options?
What happens if I do nothing?
What lifestyle factors could be contributing to this issue?
If I wanted an alternative opinion from someone who has a different perspective from you, who would you recommend I contact?
Physicians aren’t the enemy. They want you to be engaged in your healthcare, and they’ll be happy to answer questions.
The other place diagnoses get blown out of proportion is online. Social media is filled with fear-mongering that’s optimized to get you to click. In other words, it’s optimized to gather attention for the creator rather than help the viewers.
Here’s an easy litmus test to determine whether the person giving you advice has your best interests at heart.
After viewing their content, do you feel empowered or more afraid?
Stick with the ones who help you feel empowered; they’re the ones who actually care.
Your diagnosis isn’t meant to guide your life. It guides the decisions of medical providers and insurance companies.
You are not your diagnosis.
Always arm yourself with questions if you’re likely to get a diagnosis.
Don’t fall into the trap of endless fear-mongering on social media.