When I woke up one morning last week my hand hurt. So I took full advantage of what modern medical technology has to offer. I checked the symptoms out on some of those diagnose-yourself Web sites on the Internet.

When I woke up one morning last week my hand hurt. So I took full advantage of what modern medical technology has to offer. I checked the symptoms out on some of those diagnose-yourself Web sites on the Internet.

Hey, in the past I would have just told myself that I “must have slept on it wrong,” ignored it, and avoided shaking hands with people. Then I would have spent most of the day trying to get both sympathy and free medical advice from friends who might have had relatives who once suffered from hand pain, making them sort of qualified to guess what was wrong with me.

Now, of course, we don’t need friends. We’ve got an almost limitless number of seemingly friendly visitors to Web blogs who are willing to tell you, from who knows where in the world, exactly what is wrong with you. And they’ll diagnose you with as much authority as can be attributed to people calling themselves “carebear62,” or “ibuprofenguy,” or maybe even the medical-sounding “MDman.”

And there are free official medical Web sites where you don’t have to make an appointment or co-payment to see a virtual doctor pictured at the top of the screen. A lot of them are even wearing white coats and stethoscopes.

Using my left hand because my right hand was — and here I use a technical term — my “hurty hand,” I typed “hand pain” as an Internet search. I quickly changed that to “severe hand pain” when I tried to hit the space bar with my right thumb, and then “sudden severe hand pain” when I forgot and used my right hand to pick up a coffee cup.

A lot of the Web sites that came up first in the search wanted to talk about arthritis, but I didn’t want to have arthritis. So I ignored them. It was my “hurty hand,” and my Web search. I didn’t have to accept any undesirable diseases right out of the gate.

The next place I went to talked about carpal tunnel syndrome. Well, I wanted that even less than the arthritis. People walk around with hand wrappings when they have carpal tunnel. Golf season is coming. While a big hand wrapping wouldn’t necessarily hurt the quality of my golf, it would make me look silly when I kept playing.

Desperate now, I searched a site that claimed to offer a list of “60 disease causes of hand pain.” If I was going to just pick one at random anyway, and rule out the ones I didn’t like, I might as well go for quantity. Among the causes listed here were “fracture,” “sprain” and “strain.” Since the pain developed overnight, maybe I was “sleepfalling” while I was sleepwalking. Or could I have been playing too much tennis while I slept?

I searched a few more sites. One talked about “hand pain in pregnancy.” I didn’t figure I had that. 

The last site I looked at offered an Associated Press story that explained how Willie Nelson canceled a North Carolina show because of “hand pain” last month about an hour after several band and crew members “were busted for allegedly possessing moonshine and marijuana.”

Frankly, I was afraid to check into my “hurty hand” any more after that. Willie’s “bum hand” was more or less diagnosed by AP as having stemmed from only misdemeanor charges, but who knows if mine would turn out to be a felony.

Two days later, my pain was pretty much gone. If it comes back, I think I’ll see a doctor. He may offer a diagnosis I don’t like, but online I get about 50 things to worry about, including jail time.

Gary Brown writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at gary.brown@cantonrep.com.