“Catch-all” Diagnoses

By Chloe Sandberg- CC’s Staff

“Catch-all” Diagnoses

How many people have heard of sciatica? Carpal tunnel? Bursitis? I figured most of you would say yes. Now, how many of you have every been told you have sciatica? Carpal tunnel? Bursitis? Either by a healthcare professional or someone you know? Again, I figured the large majority would say yes, or I at one time in my life was told I have “blank healthcare condition.” These three terms I used above are included in a group of diagnoses that some of us PTs are starting to notice get thrown around or used very regularly, or sort of like becoming “catch-all” diagnoses/terms.

To break down the example of sciatica, we get many patients in our clinic with various forms of pain into their leg or legs and somewhere down the line they were told it is “sciatica.” While this diagnosis is a very real thing, unfortunately it seems that anyone with any type of pain anywhere in the back of their leg thinks they have sciatica or have been told by either a healthcare provider or someone they know it is “sciatica.” Often, once these patients are evaluated by one of the team members here it is quickly determined it is not sciatica, and the cause for their symptoms is identified as another source/reason/cause.

The same is very true for “carpal tunnel.” Basically anyone with pain in their arm below their shoulder, whether it be in their elbow, forearm, wrist, or hand, thinks they have carpal tunnel. The medical diagnosis for carpal tunnel is comprised of 4 very distinct symptoms all experienced in the hand and muscles of the hand itself. It is quickly identifiable whether true carpal tunnel is happening or not. Why so many people with forearm or elbow pain think they have carpal tunnel is another sign of this “catch-all” term being at play.

I am by NO MEANS trying to downplay the pain and symptoms people are experiencing. I am merely trying to shed some light onto the fact that sometimes patients get one thing or diagnosis stuck or put into their head, and they have a hard time believing that it is in fact, not said diagnosis. We will never steer you down the wrong path. Here at CC’s, we value education at the top of the list, not only for ourselves but our patients each and every day! It is our goal for you to leave here every time you are in our office feeling like you learned something new – whether it be about your injury/condition/pain, what caused it, what it is going to take to improve it, how you are progressing, and so much more. We LOVE answering patient questions to help patients better understand why they are experiencing what they are feeling!

If you have ever been told you have sciatica because you have pain somewhere in your leg, please give us a call and we can figure out if it truly is sciatica, or dysfunction from another source! We are here to help you! 😊

Post Author: Chloe Sandberg

Chloe is a PT, wife, soon-to-be-mommy, MN to ND transplant, exerciser obsessed with food, Star Wars and Game of Thrones fangirl.


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