A physical exam is a full assessment of the body in order to determine overall health. Physicals can provide reassurance that one is in safe health, or can be a way of checking up on certain symptoms that may be of concern. Research by Duke Health suggests that young, healthy individuals should get a routine physical every two to three years, while people aged fifty or above should see their doctor annually for a check-up. This week The Medical Station outlines what to expect from a routine physical.
Any doctor can perform a physical, however they are commonly completed by a primary care physician, such as a general practitioner or family doctor. Pediatricians as well as some nurse practitioners and physician assistants also often conduct physicals. A physical exam, while routine, can feel very personal, so it is important to find a doctor you trust and are comfortable with. The Medical Station has five family care physicians, all of whom have unique personalities styles of patient care. View our physicians here, or call now to book an appointment with one!
The order and mechanics of a physical differs from doctor to doctor, and also relies on the age, gender, and health of the patient, but there are a few basic elements that each physical encompasses. Patient history is generally the first step. The doctor asks the patient about their personal medical history, family medical history, and immunization history, as well as about their lifestyle habits such as drinking, sleeping, and smoking. The doctor then will take the patient’s vitals, recording their blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature. They may also do a heart exam or lung exam by listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. The doctor will also look at the physical elements of the patient by weighing and measuring them, as well as looking at the extremities, skin, and abdomen.
How to Prepare
The first step to preparing for a physical is booking an appointment. You can call The Medical Station at 416-633-2345 to book one today! When you book your appointment, be sure to ask if there is anything you need to do to prepare – depending on if you are experiencing certain symptoms, the doctor may conduct additional tests that require fasting or holding off on taking certain medications. The next step is to prepare any questions you may have. A physical is a great time to address and health concerns and symptoms you may be experiencing. Finally, it is important to bring up-to-date information about your personal and family medical history, as well as about which medications you are on, if any, and their dosage. This information is pertinent for your doctor to know, so that they can assess successful methods of treatment for any ailments you may have.
The Sex-Specific Practices
At a certain age (determined by the physician), physicals often differ for men and women in that they include pelvic, breast, and genital exams that are conducted differently according to the sex of the patient.
Women may receive a Pap smear, breast exam, pelvic exam, or mammogram. A Pap test is generally conducted on women once they have been sexually active for three years, and it is advised that these women receive one at least every three years thereafter. While breast exams are performed on most women who receive a physical, mammograms are generally needed every two years for women between the ages of fifty and seventy-four. A pelvic exam assesses the health of the vagina, cervix, and vulva, and is usually conducted in combination with a Pap test.
Men typically receive a genital examination of the penis and testicles, in which the physician looks for structural abnormalities, such as tumors. They may also conduct a hernia exam, as hernias can occur when part of the bowel pushes onto the scrotum from the abdomen.