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Diagnosis vs. Symptom

There is an interesting trend in healthcare today… nobody wants to diagnose anything.

I understand why: when you diagnose someone with a condition, it’s real hard for the patient to let go of that condition.

Once they have been diagnosed with depression, they will always see themselves as someone with depression. Once diagnosed with diabetes, they will always see themselves as someone with diabetes. The diagnosis becomes their identity. And what if the doctor is wrong?

What if the patient doesn’t really have rheumatoid arthritis, and the doctor told them that they did? The patient has “come to terms” with having a chronic condition, and now someone else says that they don’t have that chronic condition… it can create a lot of problems.

Instead, most healthcare providers don’t diagnose any more. In place of diagnosis codes on medical records, they list symptoms.

I see so many notes/records from other healthcare providers, and they have drastically shifted to listing symptoms instead of diagnoses. Here’s a common example: even when we have an MRI showing a herniated disc putting pressure on a nerve, other healthcare providers diagnose the patient with “low back pain” or “neck pain”.

The herniated disc is the cause, and the pain is a symptom. In my opinion, the diagnosis should be a herniated disc.

I recently saw this in my own life. One morning I woke up and couldn’t talk. Absolutely zero sound came out when I tried to talk. I didn’t have any fever or any other symptoms, just no voice. Most people would describe the lack of voice as laryngitis.

I went to urgent care, and they told me that I had a lot of post-nasal drainage coming from my sinuses and coating my vocal cords with gross stuff (yuck, I know). That’s what was causing my laryngitis, and the post-nasal drainage was probably a result of allergies. Laryngitis was the symptom, and drainage from the sinuses was the cause.

But when I got my records after that visit, they had diagnosed me with laryngitis. Not sinus drainage (sinusitis) or allergies (allergic rhinitis). Laryngitis.

A diagnosis should explain the “why”. Symptoms are signs or indications of a condition. If we keep treating symptoms instead of the cause, we are never going to get rid of a condition.

Pain is a symptom. Muscle spasm is a symptom. Neuropathy is a symptom. Headaches are symptoms. Brain fog is a symptom. Fatigue is a symptom.

At Stephenson Chiropractic, we don’t want to keep treating symptoms over and over. We want to get to the root cause of dysfunction. That’s why we’re far more concerned about pursuing health than reducing symptoms.

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