“Why let one bad apple spoil the whole damn bunch?”
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The internet has made all of us experts on everything. Be it coronavirus, gluten (“bread makers are puppets of the big pharma!”) or the geopolitical situation of the South China Sea.

I know how how to manage my own money. I’ve even read a book or two on personal finance. I know how to spell Warren Buffett. But that doesn’t make me a financial adviser.

Just because we have the access to information layered with our own personal experiences doesn’t make us experts.

I recently read through a long and frustrating thread in a Facebook group for hikers. Someone was asking for advice on what to do with relentless back pain that’s stopping him from hiking.

The typical answers recommended yoga for flexibility or adding specific exercises to improve core strength. There were also a few that recommended getting a massage and at least one who was adamant about not seeing a chiropractor. As in, you might as well drink cyanide. Apparently his back had been forever messed up by a chiro in the past.

These are well meaning people trying to help a fellow hiker. I get it. But reading these black and white replies is a warning exercise for anyone to not rely on advice from people who lack the expertise to give it.

Whenever the answer to something complicated like back pain is an absolute “do this, not that”, without any context whatsoever, it’s clear that the answer is based on purely personal experience.

Something worked, or didn’t work for the advice giver, or someone they know. It reminds me of how Peter Griffin was against getting a second hand car because his friend once bought one and, “Bam! 10 years later, herpes.”

Yes, some chiropractors might make your back (and wallet) worse

There are chiropractors who will sell you into seeing them twice a week for months because your “spine needs adjusting”. Whatever that means. But this doesn’t validate a blanket statement that all the chiropractors will ruin your back.

This goes for any other profession.* There are bad trainers, doctors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, dietitians, car mechanics, lawyers, fridge repairers… you name it.

Yet, just because we bite into a one bad apple doesn’t mean that the whole bunch is rotten. We just happened to choose a bad apple.

And yes, yoga might work.

But it might also make it worse. For someone whose back pain is caused by hypermobility through the trunk and hips yoga might not be the best solution.

This doesn’t mean that all the variations of yoga are bad. But certain types of yoga might not be the right for them, at this moment.

It’s tempting to believe in a straightforward solution.

We’re drawn to find simple answers. It’s comforting. Be it right or not. And we’re drawn to give simple answers because, whether we do it consciously or not, it makes us feel like we know what we’re talking about.

But the real world is more complicated. Especially with back pain where the real answer is often “well, it depends…”

Ironically, the (internet) answer to this man’s back pain problem was black on white

Towards the end of the threat, as I was just about to give up hope on humanity’s common sense and smash a hammer through my laptop screen before booking a ticket to Tibet to become a monk, there was a sign of hope. A signal leading to a relieving sigh. Words of wisdom from someone who was willing to admit they didn’t know.

“You should probably go get a professional opinion.”

Now, if we could only delete all the other well-meaning, but misleading comments.

*We make an exemption for homeopathy here. This profession has no science backing them up. Zero validity. Save your money. Buy ice cream instead. It’ll probably make you feel better.

Although, ice cream might not be good for some…