I firmly believe in the power of reason and science. I believe we should trust the opinions of doctors and scientists about opinions of health issues over pretty much anyone else. I believe that when your doctor gives you medicine to help you get better, you should take it and not trust your own intuitions, feelings, or beliefs. I believe this is true about other prescriptions like physical therapy.
I also know that everything I just said is bullshit. I know, first hand, that doctors are just as stupid as everyone else. I know, by watching it happen with my own health, that doctors are not actually that interested in doing tests or finding out what is really wrong with you. I know for a fact that a magic eight ball, roll of dice, etc… are pretty much as effective as any medical doctor, especially a general practitioner. You can spend thousands of dollars on medicine and visits to specialists that have absolutely nothing to do with what you actually have. You can even get the tests, but you still have to trust the doctors to do the right tests and you can pretty much bet that they won’t.
For the last two years I’ve been trying to trust the medical community to help me with a serious problem that has gotten in the way of me doing pretty much everything I enjoy. I had to quit martial arts because sparing became too dangerous. I quit bike riding because the doctors told me it would make my problem worse. I did the rest thing. I did the exercises they gave me that never caused one muscle to strain. I tried to be as truthful about the effects of their medicines and exercises and they did not listen. So set where they on one diagnosis that they where totally blind to the fact that the standard procedure for fixing it was simply not working. Quite the opposite in fact, I was getting worse; worse than I’d ever been in the past.
I went through uncounted numbers of doctors and physical therapists. I spent thousands of dollars on MRI’s, ice-packs and electrical probes ($80 each to have an ice pack put on you and have the electrical “stimulation therapy” for 15 minutes..3x a week for 3 months), drugs that destroyed my stomach and caused runaway anger issues (strange reaction maybe, but when I tell you 10 times that every time I take the pill you’re giving me I want to murder everyone around me, maybe it’s time to prescribe something else?). All of this while I HAD insurance.
Finally I gave up, got yet a new doctor (and specifically searched for a DO, not MD) and got seen for possible surgery. Suddenly this guy has me doing something I’ve never done before while doing an X-Ray. What’s he see? My spine is slipping forward on one of my vertebrae. I’d spent 2 years doing everything exactly wrong for such an injury, all on the advice of doctors and surgeons. I told this guy exactly the same thing as I told a previous surgeon and that guy had simply said, “That’s odd, I guess we can cut on both sides.” This new surgeon told me that he could basically turn my lower back into a solid rod (fusion of 2 discs) but that I should try getting back on the bike and getting active again.
So I did my OWN research on the internet looking for the right exercises for the new diagnosis. Stuff started making sense. Extension bad and I’d been doing nothing but that for the past 2 years. Flexion is what I needed and I’d been told to NOT do that, which I’d done (except for a few times when I tried on my own to figure stuff out). Suddenly I’m getting better. So much better that I’ve started training in martial arts again with a friend (no sparing yet because I want to be sure he can be trusted and I need to teach him control). I can get up out of bed without having to hold myself up on the dresser, the walls, the doors, the toilet seat…
What did I do? I basically gave up getting any good help from the medical profession and used Internet research to figure out how to cure myself. Now I’m getting better. This is my confusion. I believe people who do this are stupid; thinking you know better than your doctor is pretty much totally retarded. The internet is full of false information and people trying to sell false hope and quick fixes (especially something like lower back pain). It’s almost impossible to sift through the shit and it really does require advanced knowledge of medicine to do so. But what can one do, really? We should be able to trust our doctors but can we really? It costs an unjustifiable amount of money that a lot of people probably don’t have (I’m a single software developer, I can afford a lot) and 9x out of 10 it’s going to be a total waste of time.
How is a skeptic supposed to react to such a situation? Sure, skepticism includes medicine and nobody should be taken as authority, but when the vast majority of the entire medical profession are yahoos how can we justify trusting them in anything? The only reason I’m accepting this new diagnosis now is that it feels right to me and I’m seeing effects from following Internet advice on what to do about it. That’s pretty much the complete opposite of being a skeptic who realizes he can’t possible know everything about his own body.