Back pain? The video app will see you now

3 minute read

If you thought Dr Google was problematic, here comes Doc TikTok.

Australian research into how TikTok videos educate people about lower back pain has identified a few issues. 

“No!” the Back Page hears you say, “How can that be? Surely the app designed for *checks notes* children to video themselves lipsyncing and dancing to their favourite songs is perfect for the delivery of medical knowledge and advice.”

Dr Andrey Zheluk, a lecturer at Charles Sturt University, as part of a team investigating the use of videos on the platform advising how to treat back pain, analysed 200 of the most popular #backpain videos between April 2020 and September last year (BP wonders how much intersection there is between the TikTok and back pain demographics). 

Dr Zheluk told his university’s press machine that the biggest problem he’d found was the lack of advice to viewers to see their GP if pain persists. 

“We suggest there is little danger in using TikTok to get information about back pain,” he said. Given that he also found 46% of the videos were made by chiropractors and only 3% were by physicians, this seems a fairly relaxed conclusion to draw. BP can only assume that the videos do not show you how to self-chiropract.

Furthermore, the study found “that the messages reaching TikTok users did not generally reflect mainstream medical advice and that TikTok was being used for alternative health providers … for non-scientific marketing messages”.

Dr Zheluk’s prescription is for proper doctors to get on board. 

“We suggest that there is a real opportunity for doctors, nurses and other mainstream health providers to speak directly to young people through TikTok,” Dr Zheluk said.

“Once seasoned internet users get past that initial aesthetic shock, the real possibilities of what can be achieved by TikTok video creators in 20 or 30 seconds become clearer.

“TikTok really is an exciting medium and offers real opportunities to reach large numbers of young people.”

Never mind your thousandty-hour work week, or that the kinds of “real” doctors who inhabit TikTok include disgraced cosmetic surgeon Daniel Lanzer and his crew

Go forth and create medically informative micro-videos cool enough to get popular in the 12-24 demographic, and drown out those chiros. Too easy!

To be clear, we think TikTok is an excellent place for dancing doctors and satirists like the brilliant Dr. Glaucomflecken – aka ophthalmologist Dr Will Flanary – whose videos you can watch on Twitter, like a grownup. 

If you see something that gives you an aesthetic shock, share it with

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