If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. This is a common expression in medicine that simply means, if a patient gives you symptoms that fit a particular disease, don’t go looking for another disease without a good reason. Today a patient presented with low back pain and morning stiffness. She is 80 years old. I thought of osteoarthritis but she was concerned about cancer. She has no history of cancer but she had looked on line and scared herself. After we spoke a little while, she was reassured. She’d spent the nasty winter being much less mobile than usual, then had immediately begun doing hard work in her yard, pulling weeds, mulching and mowing her grass. Of course I was impressed that this 80-year-old woman still did all those things. I was able to reassure her and have her try some walking and water exercises to try to loosen up her back muscles. If it doesn’t get better, we’ll consider other causes. So she agreed to do a little less bending and stooping and pulling until she’d limbered things up a bit with walking. I’ll see her back if necessary in a month. We both agreed that when you hear hoofbeats, you shouldn’t think of zebras.
Interesting–I have no idea why we use so many animal analogies in medicine….by