This question about pain related to an old fracture made me think about what kind of health question should be on topic here on TGO. There were many well-received first-aid questions and questions about health dangers in high altitude, which clearly make sense in the context of the outdoors. Closer to the question mentioned at the beginning is this question about knee pain going downhill.

In my opinion questions that are asking for recommendations for a personal health problem should not be answered here. Firstly because it is very hard to diagnose over the internet even for a health professional, let alone a layman. And secondly the more personal detail there is, the better the chances to get a useful answer, but the answer becomes less applicable for a wider audience.

Thats why I think the question about the knee pain is very close to that line, but as it is quite general and about a problem that almost anybody walking in the mountains knows, it has a "general relevance". The question about pain in an old fraction in the tibia and fibula however is quite specific. And chronic pain is an extremely complicated issue. So the only good advice is: See your trusted health service provider about your problem, anything else is potentially dangerous speculation or not very helpful commonplace advice like "stop training when it starts to hurt".

Where do we draw the line with health questions?

Edit to address the possible duplicate:
This question is about an explicit close reason for health questions. As I do not propose to ban any kind of health question, I don't propose such a close reason either. The sole answer to the question is indeed also relevant to my question about what kind of health question is on topic, but I still believe some more discussion and detail would be beneficial.

  • Absolutely necessary and excellent question!
    – OddDeer
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 11:19
  • @Liam Certainly related, but as it is old, had only one response and was about an explicit close reason for health questions (which I do not propose here) I think a new discussion is justified.
    – imsodin
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:29
  • @Liam I realised that short after posting. Still, this is a democratic/meritocratic community, so other opinions do matter too, right? xD Maybe the consensus will be (almost) the same as this answer, but that would be a result as well.
    – imsodin
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:35
  • Your point about this specific question (and any like it) is quite a good one Firstly because it is very hard to diagnose over the internet.
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:37
  • Your right, this isn't a duplicate, related but not the same
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:37
  • Related Should we get a closing reason for questions that ask for medical advice?
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:38
  • I disagree with the statement that my question is more specific than the knee one. It's quite common that people suffer from old fractures. google.de/…
    – OddDeer
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:08
  • FWIW, Pets has dealt with this also link. I think on any SE site, if the answer is "Go see your doctor/ therapist/ veterinarian/ ..." it should be off-topic.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 14:16
  • 1
    It should be taken into account that while some conditions would have clear signs and symptoms that would make them easy to recognize, other conditions instead are not straightforward and in many cases some symptoms and signs could refer to a whole bunch of different problems, thats why proper assessment and testing is required. So, unless TGO is ok with a bunch of lists of probable conditions or a simple "go see your doctor" as answers, without even going into the plain bad medical advice issue, there should be a limit to what is on topic about health related questions. Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:56
  • @imsodin -- Thank you for asking this. The discussion is needed. Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 18:04
  • 1
    Health questions can work well or badly on outdoors.SE, and answers will sometimes be better than a doctor's advice and sometimes worse. In many cases, people will be best off if they get information both from their doctor and from other sources. Advice from doctors can easily be wrong, e.g., when there is a treatment that doctors have traditionally prescribed, but that scientific evidence shows doesn't work. This kind of thing is even more common with physical therapists, who are often very poorly trained in science and in the scientific evaluation of health claims.
    – user2169
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 23:37

5 Answers 5


Medical questions asking for medical advice is not explicitly off topic. That said I think you make a good point on this question (and others like it):

because it is very hard to diagnose over the internet even for a health professional

As such as I've voted close this question (the one your talking about not this one...)

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking for a diagnoses over the internet, will be very difficult if not impossible

Another issue with this question is that it is very specific to the person and circumstances. This isn't a common complaint that many people experience. Therefore the help and advice will only be helpful to the person asking the question. This goes against the general SE principal of making the internet better (sic by providing good answers to questions many people want the answer to).

Without knowing all the (likely complex) things going on here it's going to be very hard to answer and will then only be useful to the person asking the question and no one else.

  • 1
    But what's the difference to outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/3846/…
    – OddDeer
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:05
  • 4
    That question is about a common complaint, i.e. walking downhill hurts. Your question seems to be related to a previous injury. Without knowing all about that injury it's going to be impossible/difficult to help. i.e. your problem isn't a common complaint it is very specifically related ot you and your circumstances.
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:26
  • I admit it's quite subtle. If you get a good answer I might be proven wrong but my feeling is, you won't
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:27

Regarding my three year old IT Band question:

IT Band syndrome is a very common problem hikers face.

I seeded this here three years ago because it's rather hard to find a good answer on the web using Google. My reasoning was that other hikers would have the pain and look for an answer. The 60k views attest to the fact that it has been good for TGO (bringing in traffic).

I don't think it is any more off topic than something like "I just got bitten by a rattlesnake five miles in the woods, now what?" Perhaps "always see a doctor" is best but I'm betting I'm not the only one who would rather do research and avoid paying out thousands for a specialist.


Adapted from my chat comments:

In addition to the above point, I'm not a fan of the pattern of resurrecting years old questions just to go "why was this allowed" or "if you close mine you must close this too."

I'm going to go ahead and state this for the record: I'd hate to see TGO go the route of so many other SO sites by erasing of our history anything which doesn't perfectly conform to today's rules. People can usually understand that a question asked years ago might have been asked under different rules/standards/mods.

Retconning our site such that it never has questions outside of a given current ruleset is a tragedy for several reasons:

  1. Lots of these questions have many hits/views/votes.
  2. The more popular questions have external links so we're literally pruning our inbound sources.
  3. If the rules change again later, and that question would have been allowed? Too bad, content gone forever.
  4. In many cases you are also deleting good answers with upvotes which those users put earnest effort into.

It might keep the site nice, clean, consistent, and sterile; but at the expense of community, history, and knowledge.

I've this as a separate point, which thus can be individually down voted.

  • +1, its no harm to have those questions here if even the rules change later. Its the foundation of the great outdoors in some way.
    – WedaPashi Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:43
  • If a question is closed and protected, will it be erased automagically? Or is it preserved for historical reasons? (thing is: I like your question, but I'm not sure we should allow further comments, answers, or similar questions)
    – Roflo
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 18:22
  • It's not erased no, but it's hard to find (non-mods can't see it) and realistically it won't come back. People don't comb for "old deleted posts to reopen" Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 18:23

We can't give diagnoses and suggest cures over the Internet.

However, we can help users become informed patients when they see their doctors about TGO-related pains and injuries.

Unless you are going to a doctor specializing in sports medicine, the chances are that the kinds of complaints that are discussed here are not something with which the doc has a lot of familiarity. Look at the people in the waiting room! The doctor is spending his time dealing with problems resulting from sit-downs, remote-waving, chip-crunching and fork-lifts, not hiking, skiing, climbing and backpacking.

This is not meant as a put-down of doctors.

IMO, the question that prompted this meta question, Old fracture starts to hurt, is, as written, too specific to the OP.

  • 2
    Well the health care system is different from country to country, in the country where I live, and where I lived before, its easier to go to the doc than ask in SE. Beside that any doctor worth their salt should be able to perform an assessment, formulate an accurate diagnosis and refer out if needed. Then again, I'm a tad biased. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 16:22

I personally don't think we should be having any problems with these questions, unless its not really person-dependent and trivial.

We all go outdoors, we all have had good times, great times and tough times.

While I typically am keen to answer health related questions, many a times, if not most of times, Outdoor Safety and Health are correlated.


Knee pain when descending a mountain
What to do if a team member falls sick?

Do we think that a member falling sick on a hike/trek is health related, Yes it is!
Do we think then the question doesn't belong here, I absolutely don't think so!

Same is the case for other questions well. There are questions that deal with general health, like even drinking groundwater, un-purified water, and we should always be welcoming them.

Yep, I did test the boundary with a question: Is there a dose guide for Dexamethasone?
which is definitely controversial to have, since it directly relates to personal health and is very trivial. Do we encourage such questions, probably not!

Now even this one got better treatment from community: How can I prevent calf muscle pain while descending?
And thats absolutely alright. Like I said, some life-hacks that you know can certainly help me getting over some not-so-serious issue easily.

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