Sometimes, it seems that it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify good, reliable online information about migraine and other headache disorders. Each day, I receive Google Alerts of new online information. All too often, when I follow the links, what I find is not the kind of content that we can trust to be current, reliable, and unbiased. I call this “dead-end content” because it takes us nowhere.
One of the most important matters that we need to understand and consider when looking at online content is the difference between objective, unbiased articles and press releases, which are often biased by their very nature. The purpose of many press releases is to draw potential customers to a business, and, yes, headache and migraine centers, as well as private doctors’ practices are businesses. A good example that I received via Google Alerts is this one:
We can recognize it as a press release because of the Charlotte Headache Center logo at the top and the first line:
“Charlotte, NC, United States of America - June 19, 2014 /MarketersMedia/”
The tag line on their logo, “It’s time to take back your life!,” is going to appeal to any patient with problematic headaches and / or migraines. The beginning sentences, which quote the World Health Organization, are probably done intentionally in an attempt to lend credibility to the press release. The approach of quoting the director of the center by using, “we asked,” is a common ploy sometimes used in press releases to make them look like news articles.
To be fair, I went to the center’s website and downloaded their booklet, “Finally Pain-Free.” Their treatment is based on treating temporomandibular joint issues (TMJ). While TMJ is a migraine trigger for some people, it’s not a trigger for all migraineurs. Treating TMJ can reduce the frequency of migraines for those for whom it’s a trigger, but will be of no help to other migraineurs. Even for those it can help, .
Here are some words and phrases that can tip us off to unreliable and / or biased content:
- miracle, miraculous
- 100% success rate (This applies to any extremely high success rate.)
These are often (but not always) hallmarks of reliable content:
- the name of the author
- the date the content was last updated
- references / sources - Well-written content will have a list of resources used in writing it.
- physician review - If the content is not written by a physician, was it reviewed by one?
Other issues to consider:
- How old is the content?
- How old are the references?
- Is the goal of the piece to sell you something?
- Does it seem to good to be true?
Some press releases can be reliable and quite helpful:
- Universities and other institutions that conduct research often issue press releases regarding new research findings.
- Manufacturers often issue press releases when new treatments are on the horizon and / or have been approved by the FDA.
- Nonprofit organizations often issue press releases about upcoming events and campaigns. Do, however, check the status of these organizations if you’re considering making a donation. Organizations can be listed in their states as “nonprofit corporations” without having been certified as nonprofit organizations by the IRS, and if they don’t have their IRS certificate, donations to them are NOT tax deductible. If you’re uncertain, you can search for organizations on the IRS web site, on their _Exempt Organization Select Check page _.
It simply shouldn’t be as difficult to recognize good online migraine and headache information, but it is. While I don’t want to scare anyone off from press releases, they can be difficult to even recognize, let alone know whether to trust them. Hopefully, the information above will be helpful.
On HealthCentral, we do our best to provide you with information that is current and reliable. When we use a press release or a news article to write a piece, we also do our best to use multiple sources, including the related medical journal articles, when appropriate. In addition, we often contact researchers to see if they would like to comment and what they feel it’s most important for patients to know about their research.
Personal experience pieces and other content that’s based on what we’ve learned through years of attending medical education conferences aren’t always reviewed by a physician, but all other content is. Should you ever have a question about anything you find on our site, please don’t hesitate to post a comment or send us a personal message.
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Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.