When a primary care provider (PCP) performs a routine test to check one’s overall health, it is what we call a physical examination (or a wellness check). During a physical examination, your PCP may take several tests depending on your age, and family history.
A PCP can be a doctor, a physician assistant, or a nurse practitioner. A full medical check up is for everyone, whether sick or not.
A patient can ask questions about his or her health conditions or discuss any issues or changes that he or she has noticed during a physical examination.
Why Is an Annual Physical Examination Important?
Your primary care provider can determine the general status of your health by checking your overall health. A physical examination gives you (the patient) a chance to talk to your doctor regarding any ongoing pain or side effects of medicine that you are experiencing. You may discuss your other health concerns with your PCP during an annual physical examination.
Doctors, usually, recommend a physical examination at least once a year. This holds true for people over 50. The purpose of a physical examination is to:
- Check for diseases early to ensure quick treatment and easy recovery
- Find out any issues that may become a medical concern in the future
- Make sure you maintain a healthy diet and exercise
- Update necessary immunizations
A physical examination is helpful in checking the blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in the body. These levels may be high without showing any symptoms. An annual physical screening enables your doctor to provide early treatment for these conditions.
Before you undergo surgery or start treatment for a condition, a PCP may need to check your overall health as part of a routine checkup.
Do You Need to Prepare for a Physical Examination?
If you need a physical examination, make sure you fix an appointment with a PCP of your choice. Your family’s primary care provider can assist you with a physical examination. Otherwise, you can check with your health insurance for some primary care providers near you.
Before undergoing a physical examination, make sure you prepare some paperwork to avoid hassles. These may include:
- A list of the medications you are taking currently (these can be any over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements)
- A list of any pain or symptoms you are facing
- Medical or surgical history
- Results of a recent test
- If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator, make sure you bring a photocopy of the front and back of the device card
- Any additional questions that you may have
During the examination, you may like to dress in comfortable clothing. Get rid of any jewellery, makeup, or other things that might have prevented your PCP from examining your body thoroughly.
How Does Your PCP Perform a Physical Examination?
Before you go to your PCP, a healthcare professional will ask you some questions depending on your medical history, any allergies, past surgeries, or other symptoms that you might have. He or she may also want to know about your lifestyle (that may include exercise, smoking habits, or drinking).
When you visit your PCP’s office, you will be asked to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Then, your PCP will begin with inspecting your whole body to check for any unusual marks or growths.
Next, he or she may feel your abdomen and other parts of the body by making you lie down (if you have not already). While doing this, your PCP is looking for the consistency, size, location, tenderness, and texture of the vital organs in your body.
With the help of a stethoscope, the doctor will try to listen to the vibration of the various parts of your body. For example, your PCP may listen to your lungs to check whether it is in good condition by making you take deep breaths. He or she will also use the stethoscope to listen to your heart ensuring there are no atypical sounds.
A technique called “percussion” involves tapping the body like it is a drum. The technique helps your primary care provider discover any fluid in areas where it should not be, and locate the consistency, borders, and size of the vital organs.
The doctor will also check your pulse, height, and weight during a physical examination. Do not hesitate to communicate with him or her if you have any concerns. While it is possible for you to contact your PCP when required, a physical exam is your private time when you can ask questions about anything related to your health. For example, if you do not understand any test, be sure to ask questions about that. Your PCP shall answer all your questions so that you have no doubts.
What about a Follow-Up Checkup?
After the physical examination appointment, you can return home. You may need to visit your PCP for a follow-up after the examination through a phone call or email. He or she will provide you with a copy of all your test results. He or she will find out any medical problem areas that may bother you and advise you according to that. You may need other additional tests depending on what your PCP finds out.
Physical examinations are a routine part of healthcare. It helps doctors and nurses to understand a person’s general health, monitor specific signs, and identify possible medical concerns that may arise in the future. If your primary care provider detects an underlying health concern, he or she will recommend further diagnostic tests. If you have concerns regarding a physical examination, be sure to discuss the same with your PCP before undergoing one.