What Is Science When It Comes To A Disease That We Don’t Understand?

Drawing of monocular microscope.

A simple microscope, just like the one FitOldDog had as a teenager in the 1950s, in Bristol, England. I loved, or should I say cathected, that marvelous instrument that taught me so much. Image (from I don’t know where, sorry), modified using Alien Skin SnapArt software.

  1. a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person.
    “told anecdotes about his job”
    synonyms: story, tale, narrative, incident; More

    • an account regarded as unreliable or hearsay.
Leeuwenhoek invented microscope

“Van Leeuwenhoeks discovery of bacteria was not immediately accepted by scientists. His letter to the Royal Society announcing the discovery of bacteria caused such doubt at the Royal Society that he had to enlist an English vicar, as well as jurists and doctors, to confirm that his report was based on true observations. Robert Hooke later repeated the experiment and was able to confirm his discoveries.” I’m no great scientist, like this guy, but I generally know BS when I see it!

Our Plantar Fasciitis Research Data, Just One Example Among Hundreds: “ANONYMOUS: Hello, I’ve been through orthotics, physiotherapy with ASTYM, stretching, expensive athletic shoes, special arch support sleeves, etc., and I’m still where I was when onset occurred. Eight months, and no treatment has helped. When can I start to walk again?”

This isn’t an anecdote! It’s a cry for help. We see them every day on Facebook.

What is science?

sci·ence ˈsīəns/ noun (from Google)

  1. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
    “the world of science and technology”
    synonyms: branch of knowledge, body of knowledge/information, area of study,discipline, field

    “the science of criminology”
Barry Marshall and Helicobacter pylori

Then there’s this brave guy, and his Helicobacter pylori cocktail. Remarkable! Not sure I’m as brave as him! Hope I don’t have to find out. BUT WAS IT REAL SCIENCE? Click image for link to article.

“Science is the constant quest to understand the Universe, and oneself, based on questioning the obvious, whilst  listening to oneself and others with healthy skepticism, observing, thinking, testing and researching with joy and excitement, always seeking the best questions to ask and letting the answers fall where they may.” FitOldDog, Today.


Recent comment on FitOldDog’s work on plantar fasciitis.

 “I am very keen on hearing about scientific studies into PF, but collecting / analysing anecdotes IS NOT science.” Source kept anonymous, unless he wants to write a rebuttal. I really appreciate this, by the way, because it demonstrates interest, and I could be wrong – never learned a thing without being wrong.

I finally got this reaction on the Internet (Facebook) to my ongoing onslaught on the craziness of injecting cortisone into people’s heels to fix plantar fasciitis. I’m amazed it took so long, and happy about it!

Here is my response. I wonder if I was sufficiently diplomatic?

John snow pump handle

Was this just an anecdote, or did it help solve the riddle of how Cholera is spread?

“Hi Person X, you are only the second person to react in this expected manner, the first being a fellow scientist, friend of mine. He called my work junk science, and I understand his arguments, which I addressed previously; I know the limitations of this approach, as discussed in my recent blog post on sample bias. Was John Snow’s pump handle experiment an anecdote or useful data? How about this anecdote.. If you could send me to a source of better information and analysis, I would certainly appreciate that. I could find nothing of value. This is fascinating for an old pathologist, who learned about disease one case at a time.

Man looking under light for his keys

A man is on his hands and knees, looking for something under a lamppost and obviously not finding it. The neighborhood policeman asks what he is doing.
“I’m looking for my keys.”
“Did you lose them around here?”
“Not exactly; I think I left them on the kitchen table at my house.”
“Then why aren’t you looking for them at your house?”
“The light is better over here.”

I wonder if I’m happy with my approach simply because I’m a pathologist by training. You see descriptions of diseases in textbooks, you read the statistics, listen to lectures from the experts, but you really don’t understand the condition until you have seen it first-hand in all of it’s guises. The closest I could get to such information is the description of people’s misery when purported plantar fasciitis treatments fail, and their delight when they cure, or even ameliorate the pain. So, I started collecting these stories, and slowly turned them into data.

What do I hope to achieve?

1. To encourage the medical profession, in greater numbers, to realize that the source of pain is not necessarily where the patient reports the pain.

2. To stop the craziness of injecting things into people’s heels, unless it makes sense to do so, which it almost never does. I’m pleased to say that I’m supported in this idea, concerning negative impacts of corticosteroid heel injections,  by Northwest Foot And Ankle.

3. To have fun exploring a fascinating disease, plantar fasciitis, as the road to my real goal, which is to encourage everyone to undertake the study of body awareness, healthy exercise, and optimal movement training, to stay active into old age.

4. To fight destructive misoneism.

Wishing Everyone Happy Feet And Happy Trails.

PS It’s time to finish my next book, “How To Survive In Science, And Have Fun Doing It.

PPS Thanks so much for your comment, Person X, it is REALLY appreciated.


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.