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The problem with self diagnosing

We all enjoy being physically active with our dogs, so unfortunately there usually comes a time when we pick up a niggle or small injury. You know the one, you feel a bit uncomfortable, so you push through and then within a few days it feels worse… What is the first thing we do? Hit the internet search engines of course and start our journey of self-diagnosis!

Herein lies the problem. Unfortunately, unless you have a good knowledge of the potential issues and the potential cause of your problem, you are highly likely to misdiagnose and mistreat the issue, potentially ignoring the root cause and turning what might be a small 1-week issue if dealt with properly, into a long-term niggle or injury.

You are not alone.

You are not alone if you have felt discomfort and then got straight onto google to find out what the problem is. We’ve all been online to diagnose a niggle and felt quite qualified to do so, but the real issue with this is that we often will diagnose incorrectly.

Let’s take a step back and think about it. If you had chest pains which wouldn’t go away, then you would (hopefully) call the doctor! You wouldn’t have your child or dog in pain and attempt to self-diagnose and treat it at home. That’s what we have professionals for.

A key example

The key example I would provide is a small injury that I personally have had over the last two weeks. I was out running and hit a little uneven section and rolled my right ankle. I tried running it through but as I got around 8 km in, my leg felt more uncomfortable, and I called my run at around 10km. The next day it was challenging to walk downstairs and so I rested, iced and did very little for a week. I decided to self diagnose with a slight muscle strain, thinking that it was the tibialis anterior which was strained because I had hit some hills.

Fast forward ten days and it got worse, the discomfort was real and it was hampering me getting a chance to run and train. Cue more googling to check it wasn’t shin splints or worse a stress fracture… Knowing what I do about muscular anatomy in the legs, I was pretty convinced that it was purely muscular, but was unsure of how to treat it or move forward.

They’re called professionals for a reason.

If my injury was shin splints, we were looking at a minimum 6 weeks rest in order to get back to training, if it was worse and a stress fracture, even longer. So luckily having a professional in my corner meant that I could go and get some support and treatment. We run regularly and read some Runners World and automatically think we are educated, however unless we have properly studied running anatomy and form and physiology, we are not qualified to diagnose.

A quick example of our potential lack of knowledge is as follows;

Which of the following is true?

The lower leg has 7 muscles interconnected with the muscles of the foot

The lower leg has 10 muscles interconnected with the muscles of the foot

The lower leg has 13 muscles interconnected with the muscles of the foot

Think right now about what you know…

The answer?

We have 13 muscles interconnected with the muscles of the foot! Superficial muscles and deep muscles. Across the front of our leg alone, we have 3 main muscles which then as we come around the side of the leg meet others… so sometimes what feels like sore shins could easily be a strain of a muscle and much more easily treatable!

The example for myself here is that I actually rolled my right ankle and then thought I had strained the muscles on the front of my shin. However when I went to my sports therapist for a consultation, it turns out that I had actually pulled my fibularis brevis which is a muscle that goes up behind the muscles of the shin. A deep knot here meant the muscle was tight and was making my ankle feel a bit sore, and because of the tightness, the muscles across the front of the shin (extensor digitorum longus and tibialis anterior) were also getting tight.


Yes, it costs money, but a visit sooner rather than later can save you lots in the long run. It is easier to fix your car if it means changing a tyre, but, leave that tyre to continue being damaged and it affects the handling of the vehicle. Over time a tyre, causes impact on the rest of the car and means when you do eventually address it, you might well have more to fix.

By attending a sports therapist, I was able to have a treatment and release tension immediately meaning I could walk up and down stairs without pain. Two more short treatments and I’ll be back out and running in less than ten days! That’s a win in my book!

Our body has a great way of protecting itself from further damage and within a short space of time, we begin to compensate for injury using other muscles in our body. It is designed to protect itself as much as possible and a few weeks of ignoring injury can mean that you end up with poor form and further pain in the long run.

So what is the take away here?

Simple – be sensible and seek professional help.

As I said earlier, if our dog or child was showing signs of pain – would we go by the ‘shut up and push through it’ school of thought? Absolutely not, we would be getting them the help they need in order to be able to return to normal service. So stop self-diagnosing when you get an injury – if it hurts, stop. If it doesn’t ease within two days, then go and seek help!

By seeking help, it doesn’t make us weak, it empowers us to get stronger faster.

Seek help from professionals who have learnt their craft for years, they are specialists and as such we should take advantage of having them in our corner.

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