Why You Should Not Use Google

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I’ve been claiming “injury” for a while now, particularly after that magical 10-miler in Central Park 11 days ago.

First, there was some hip pain.

Then there was a little soreness behind my knee.

And then, what I was convinced were shin splints that would inevitably lead to a stress fracture.

Now if you’ve visited Ali On The Run in the past, you know I’m totally not dramatic at all. I’m super chill, and if something hurts I definitely don’t immediately jump to Google for a diagnosis. That would be slightly hysterical and completely out of character.

But let’s say that maybe, when I felt some pain, I did decide to Google it. Let’s just say that for the sake of a hypothetical story. Thanks for playing along.

And let’s say I searched for hip pain, back-of-knee pain and shin pain.

OK, enough pretending. That’s exactly what I did, even after seeing a doctor back on April 9 who told me I didn’t have a stress fracture. I still Googled.

The hip pain? Clearly a hip stress fracture.

The shin pain? Definitely shin splints, possibly a tibial stress fracture.

The back-of-knee pain? Most likely an ACL tear waiting to happen.

Along the way I think I also coughed once or twice — Google thinks I should watch out for Anthrax, SARS and also “Pertussis,” which is whooping cough. Not mild seasonal allergies.

And Crohn’s disease? Maybe it’s Crohn’s now, but down the road that bitch is going to turn into a bunch of ulcers and my stomach might actually fall out of my body.

See? I told you I’m not dramatic.

So I did all this self-diagnosing, which is normal and calm, and I actually took a running break. I took rest days. Real rest days. And in lieu of running, I did a bit of doctor-approved spinning.

Yesterday I even biked for real.

This photo is blurry because Brian was so drunk when he took it. Obviously. (Brian why is the photo blurry? Don't you do this stuff for a living...kind of?)

Brian took me on a little crotch-pain-inducing jaunt up to Nyack, except not, because he says I didn’t actually make it all the way to Nyack. But it was a gorgeous day, and I did my longest ride ever: 40 miles! Check that off the New Year’s Resolution list!

This is me on the George Washington Bridge. Yes, that helmet is for a small child. But I still wore it, because it was purple and I'm confident that in the event of a fall it would have protected my fragile brain AND looked swell.

I didn’t do so hot on the bike. I was really slow — because I was coming off a day of traveling and five hours of sleep, not because anything hurt — and I felt bad that Brian probably didn’t get much out of the ride, but it was fun to pedal around for a while. Also, that route is hilly!

Yesterday also marked another big day: The Eugene Marathon.

That was supposed to be my sub-4:00 marathon. It was supposed to be huge.

But then I didn’t run it.

At the time, I was totally fine with my decision.

When I woke up yesterday, though, on what would have been Race Day, I was surprisingly a little heartbroken. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be running fast and finishing up gloriously on Hayward Field.

Instead I was home, riding a bike and PRing in non-running days.

Ali On The Bed Rest. This photo is important. (Mom, I took this picture for you, because you wanted to see the new dresser and the mirror and the pictures Brian hung. But then I never sent it to you because I fell asleep instead.)

Coincidentally, Day 10 of my 10 Day Non-Running Streak fell on the day of Eugene. Go figure. I didn’t even plan that.

So while my friends PR’d the heck out of that race in Oregon, I managed to have a fun little day in NYC on the bike and attempting to PR in mimosa drinking (fail — I had two and then moved on to 16 Handles).

But the point of this post was about how you should not self-diagnose with the assistance of Dr. Google, so let’s get back on topic.

This morning I went back to Dr. DuShey. Even though he previously told me I did not have any stress fractures, I wanted to be super sure. We also hadn’t done X-rays on my hip last time, so I wanted to check out my hip bones…which are connected to my leg bones, which are connected to my foot bones. That’s basically how that song goes.

I updated Dr. DuShey and I secretly wanted him to praise me and high five me (I love high fives) when I said I took 10 (now 11) days off running. Turns out, doctors don’t congratulate you for taking their advice. That’s just what they expect you to do.


He did some tests: hopping on one foot, pointing, flexing, standing, leaning. Things of that nature. He did not ask me to do a high kick, which is unfortunate, because that’s where I really shine.

From those tests, he concluded the following:

  1. I do not have a stress fracture in my hip.
  2. I do not have a tibial stress fracture.
  3. I am not dying.

But we took X-rays just to be sure.

This is my pelvis. I feel like we just got SUPER close. This is intimate stuff.

Look, no cracks!

The shin bone is connected to...that other little bone. I don't know. I see two bones.

All good, doc!

The diagnosis, from Dr. DuShey With A Medical Degree (as opposed to Dr. Google, who I don’t believe went to Harvard):

  • The part of my hip that hurts isn’t the “weight-bearing part,” so it’s not where people even get stress fractures. Instead, the hip pain is a result of a strained abductor. F-ing weak glutes.
  • I don’t have “shin splints,” but rather “overworked muscles.” Shocking, because I totally don’t work out very much at all. If I had a stress fracture in my tibia, we would see a crack in a specific spot, and I don’t have that. “The bone looks good,” he said. I know because I wrote it down. I liked that quote.
  • There is nothing structurally wrong with me. In other words, my bones are good, and my muscles are sleepy.

Dr. DuShey was really awesome about explaining the pain to me in a way I actually understood. I told him that the shin-ish pain was “all up and down,” and not in a specific spot, and he used a pen to explain that if it were a stress fracture, it would hurt in one specific point. He made the pen bend and stuff, and then it all made sense to me. (Google never used a pen to demonstrate this point.) I don’t have to worry! It’s all just strained…exactly what he told me at my first appointment.

After 10 days without running, I am proud of myself for not giving in. There were days when I really wanted to run, but I didn’t. I spent Saturday traveling to Rhode Island for a wake, and in the midst of all the emotions, I kept thinking it would be nice to go for a run to clear my head. Instead I had some red wine. Moving forward, not back — that’s the ultimate goal.

So now what?

More stretching. More foam rolling. More icing. More non-running, at least until I feel ready to run again. And Dr. DuShey gave me the go-ahead for limitless (he didn’t use that word) biking, so I should buy one of those eventually.

That helmet looks stupid. I want a cooler one. Preferably with a shark fin on top, so people know I'm scary and they get out of my way. (Just kidding, they already get out of my way when they see me wobbling trying to shift gears and free my water bottle from its cage.)

I’m not going to run today.

I’m not going to run tomorrow.

I’m also going to avoid Google, because I don’t want to come down with a case of cholera or Rhinotillexomani.

Just kidding. I already have Rhinotillexomani, which is best described as “obsessive nose picking.”

I’ll let you decide if I’m serious about that or not.

Congratulations to all of this weekend’s runners. From my Twitter feed I’ve gathered that every single one of you crushed your goals and set record PRs. I’m impressed and definitely not at all jealous! Woo!



52 Responses

  1. Why would you Google for information that a doctor – who has studied for years to make these conclusions and even then had to perform tests and get xrays to get a definitive answer – is paid tons of money for? I agree with Shannon, no good can come of searching for something online that requires an in-person examination.


    Okay, enough caps lock, but seriously I want to celebrate with you.

    Also, I am the queen of google diagnosis. Sars, bird flu, stress fractures, pregnancy, lupus…i’ve diagnosed myself with all of these. Guess how many were actually right? None of the above. Heh.

  3. Where is your hip pain? Unless it’s groin pain, it’s typically not related to the bone. We were always taught back in med school and ortho rotations that true “hip” pain is typically felt in the groin. Two summers ago I developed a stress reaction (just short of a fracture) in my hip that only showed up on an MRI. It presented as weight-bearing groin pain.

  4. Sorry to hear about your injuries! That stinks. My eye was swollen in college one time and WebMD suggested that I had juvenile diabetes, so I hear ya loud and clear on googling your own symptoms.

    Blog question: you had posted awhile back about self-hosting but I never saw any other mention of it. What site did you end up going through? Was it a terrible process?

  5. I’m going to give my future patients high fives now. I hope this will make me a cool doctor. It will, right?

    You’ll be back rockin’ it soon, Ali!

  6. Never, ever, ever Google!! Glad you don’t have anything too serious, and that you are enjoying biking! Not quite running, but a great substitute.

  7. I had a similar issues in the past with my hips/hamstrings/glutes. I thought my running career is over before it even started 🙂 MY doc did ART and within 6 weeks I was able to run! Since then I stretch after each run and also get a massage once a month. This really helps! Hope you are back running very soon!

  8. Proud of you for sticking to your guns and not running! And for confirming you do not have SARS or ebola or anything. I know you’ll be feeling better soon! I really want to run over the GW bridge at some point soon… COME WITH ME WHEN YOU’RE BETTER!

  9. Good to hear you are stress fracture free! However, I really hope you get to put all these body aches and pains behind you soon and can get running again. It’s such a drag. You are taking all this non running/care for your body so well. Most runners would be pulling their hair out! With the way you are caring for yourself, you’ll be busting PR’s in no time. Cant wait to read about them!

  10. Glad you don’t have any stress fractures! I definitely had a similar experience once. I’ve always had on and off shin pain but at one point it felt much more localized and I freaked out (in my defense, my school’s doc said he thought I had one too) and made my mom bring me to get a bone density scan.. after 3 hours of waiting, I found out I didn’t have a stress fracture. My mom said “I told you so” and now I try not to be so dramatic with injuries : )

  11. Googling for injuries is the worst. (I mean I do it too, but it’s still the worst.) NO GOOD CAN COME OF IT.

    I’m buying a bike soon too. I figure I should use something other than the bike I had when I was 12 for my upcoming triathlons. Yes, I’m that person who made her parents ship her bike to her when she signed up for a tri last year. At least you have Brian to help buy a bike; I know nothing about them!

  12. Love this post – I am actually laughing out loud! I always secretly plot to throw rocks at passing runners when I am injured. Nothing evil about that..

    Sorry your doc didn’t ask for a high kick. Maybe next time you should give him one as a bonus.

  13. Soooo know what I hear is *really* good for weak hammies and glutes?? barre classes 😉 just sayin. hehe. but seriously, that sh*t works. TRUST me.

  14. hahaha, I can’t even count the times I’ve let google convince me I have either stress fractures or cancer. I totally relate to your experiences with google!

  15. Ick…well I am glad to hear no stress fractures. Be nice to your shins and hip and you will be back before you know it. I am going thru something similar at the moment. Mimosas help.

  16. Do not google, and stay the F away from any Runner’s World forum. They’re all “I *thought* I had this incredibly minor injury, but THEN MY LEG FELL OFF AND YOURS WILL TOO.” It’s where all the people in the world with extremely sad (and extremely rare, but that’s beside the point) cautionary tales gather to freak out everyone else. Avoid!

  17. Ah yes, the Google problem. I still remember the day Google convinced me I was literally dying of CHOLERA. And I wasn’t just playing the game Oregon Trail either. PS – That bone you don’t know the name of is the fibula. I know because I DID have a stress fracture there! Boo-yah.

    1. AND THEN WE HAD TO FORD THE RIVER IN OUR WAGON!!! (But seriously, hope your stress fracture is all healed.)

  18. Hey Ali,
    I just thought I would actually comment (for once) and let you know – I DID in fact have a stress fracture in my hip when I had similar symptoms as you!
    It started in January, and I too ran through it for a while, but then it got to the point where once I was sitting down, I physically couldn’t stand and put weight on my leg bc it felt like it was going to break. Once I started crawling to the bathroom in the middle of the night I knew something was bad. Long story short, I ended up being on crutches for a month (with NO EXERCISE at all!!!!) and now I’ve been off them for 5 weeks, but still no running. It’s been great to get back in the gym, but I miss running So so so much 🙁 Apparently, “pelvic stress fractures can hang around for 6 months to a year”, so my dr doesn’t want to risk re-cracking the bone before it has completely healed. I don’t even know how it happened bc I was running far less than normal and I’ve run 4 marathons so it made no sense to happen now. So be patient – and let yourself heal because you DON’T want to end up in my situation 🙁 I’ve missed 2 half marathons and 1 ten miler, and now I’m just hoping to be back for my fall marathon!! Continue to be smart, as frustrating as it is – it is most definitely the RIGHT thing!! 🙂 best of luck!

  19. All your talk of spinning made me want to see what the fuss was about, so tonight I am going to my first ever spinning class. Also figure I should get better on a bike since I am doing the biking leg of a relay triathlon in 2 months time and I havent hopped on my pink, second hand, rusty bike since last summer!

  20. I am a chronic googler and I admit it. Recently though its been a big help in dealing with IT Band syndrome. I did diagnose myself (correctly) before I went to my doc and started stretching right away because of what I found online.

    Still dealing with my injury though 🙁 So i know how much it sucks to miss races because of it. I missed on this weekend too 🙁

  21. The other day I turned to Google to find out why my left handed four year old wrote her letters backwards. I learned she was dyslexic and had a learning disability. I followed up with her teacher, turns out she is just a left handed 4 year old. Go figure. My point is to stay away from Google and go buy a bike. Bikes are fun.

    1. They’re actually not from our trip! Brian got them for me for Christmas — he bought them at the Union Square Market in NYC.

  22. I am so glad you aren’t REALLY hurt badly or have a stress fracture or something. And I am not suggesting this just because I am barre-obsessed, but I really think it would help strengthen your shins to add some barre workouts in (NYC has so many studios after all! hehe) – Physique 57 is one I would like to try next time I am in NYC for example – because it will totally strengthen your entire calf but mostly that front part (tibialis, right?) where you are having the pain. My shins are SO much stronger as a result. Just saying 🙂 Glad you didn’t give in and run and are finding alternate workouts. go you!

    1. Can’t wait to have you visit our studio when you get a chance to visit NY or LA.

  23. I have the same pain presently, hip/ groin/ quad… It is scary reading this, as I google diagnosed and I was told to go get a message HA!

    Never thought of the possibility of a stress fracture in my hip area.. that would suck

  24. WebMD has convinced me multiple times that I have cancer. In fact, every time I’ve ever used WebMd, the diagnosis has been some form of cancer. So, in short, good call on laying off Google for your diagnosis! Be smart, stay strong, and ride it out. You’ll be running before you know it!

  25. I want to rent a bike and go with you guys. That’s really pretty. Can Brian teach me how to be a good rider? I was pretty crappy at spinning, so I might need some coaching.

  26. Ah yes, I am also nursing all types of sore/painful muscles too so you will be finding me doing “limit-less” biking also! Have fun! 😉 And I like your helmet- purple is the best color to have!

  27. I def think you should buy a bike. In the absence of running, it’s almost a prerequisite!! Go and buy one today, it would make you feel so much better 😉

  28. I don’t run anymore, so I have no need to foam roll. Because, that thing really hurts, but yesterday my hips were KILLING me and I was craving a foam roll. Sigh. Injuries.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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