Whether you are going to the doctor to address an illness or injury, or you’re there for an annual checkup, a physical exam is a critical part of your visit. Doctors can learn a lot about your general health by way of physically examining your body from head to toe. That’s why physical exams are so important to your overall preventive care plan along with a healthy diet and exercise.
What many patients don’t know is that you don’t necessarily need to have primary care established to get your physical exam completed. You can actually get a physical exam at your local UrgentMED location! Read on to learn more about this type of exam.
What is a Physical?
Since we receive numerous calls from patients regarding physicals and what they entail, our knowledgeable team at UrgentMED has put together a list of some of the most commonly asked questions about physical exams.
A physical examination, or as it is often called, a physical is where a physician looks at you, both with the naked eye and through specialized tools, to determine different aspects of your health. This exam can be general or specific to a particular issue. Generally speaking, your primary care physician conducts a physical at least once every year, but it may be more frequent if you are suffering from any health issues.
You will be asked to provide your medical history during the exam. Health questions about you and the immediate members of your family (parents, siblings, children, and grandparents) may also be asked to form a complete diagnostic picture. So make sure you have all this information with you before you go in for your appointment.
You’ll also need to provide information about any prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medications you have been taking, and any medical procedures you’ve had in the past.
A physical lasts about 30 minutes and covers your full body including your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. To give you an idea of what an annual physical or a general wellness checkup looks like, here’s what our UrgentMED physicians do:
- Check your vital signs – heart rate, blood oxygenation, temperature, breathing rate, and blood pressure
- Check your general skin health – the condition of your hair and nails, how you walk, your standing posture, presence of any skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc., and more
- Check your neck and head, including the throat, nose, ears, eyes, mouth, arteries, lymph nodes, and thyroid
- Check your arms and legs for any physical abnormalities
- Check your neurological health – your reflexes, balance, mental alertness, muscle strength, and nerves
- Check your abdomen for signs of illness (this may involve touching and pressing on your abdomen)
- Listen to your heart for irregular heartbeat, heart murmur, and other conditions
- Listen to your lungs for any wheezes, crackles, and other abnormal breathing sounds that might indicate issues like asthma, emphysema, or pneumonia
- The exam also includes other parts which vary by gender. For example, the pelvis and breasts are often checked in case of women, and the prostate and testicles for men.
Do I Need a Physical Every Year?
It depends. If you are healthy and in good shape, there is no standard recommendation for how often you should get tested. We recommend asking your primary care physician how often they want to see you.
However, if you are at high risk of certain diseases or you are in your 50s or 60s, you should get an annual physical exam even if you’re feeling well. Having risk factors (like pre-diabetes or borderline high blood pressure) means you have to be vigilant about your health. The same goes for older adults as they are more likely to fall ill.
Also, if you have a chronic condition, like diabetes or arthritis, you should get a physical every few months even if you have it under control. If you are on a prescription medication regimen, that also warrants more frequent checkups. Keep in mind that these visits are not only about looking for a condition you’re not aware of – their purpose is to evaluate your current state of health in light of an illness or risk factors you already have.
Are There Different Types of Physicals?
Broadly speaking, there are three main types of annual physical examinations: general wellness exam, sports physical, and work physical. While they all follow the same format, they are designed to check your readiness for different things.
General Wellness Exam
You should get a general physical once a year or whenever you transition to a new doctor. You will be asked about your overall family medical history, and if there’s any particular illness that runs in your family. A blood and urine test will also be conducted to ensure your body is functioning as it should.
This exam is recommended when your doctor wants to diagnose a problem in its early stage. For example, you may be experiencing certain issues but you don’t know the cause. That’s why a wellness exam is considered a crucial part of preventive care.
Sports Physical Exam
A sports physical, also known as pre-participation physical examination (PPE), is an exam that measures your fitness for the sport you are currently playing. In other words, it’s conducted to determine whether or not you are physically able to participate in a sport safely.
While the precise test varies depending on the sport, usually the doctor will check for three things: your general fitness level, your emotional health, and any issue that may lead to an injury. Most states require students to take a sports physical exam before they can play school sports, which is why the test is also referred to as school physicals or camp physicals.
As the name suggests, this exam checks your fitness for a particular job. If you are applying for a job that needs you to perform frequent lifting or heavy labor, your employer is likely to ask you to complete a physical to test your physical ability and stamina. It will help them ensure that you have the physical ability to endure the demands of the job.
A work physical also includes an alcohol and drugs test, usually in the form of a urine sample or breathalyzer. As mentioned earlier, these three are the main types of physical exams, however, there are a few more that don’t necessarily fall into the preventive care category, such as:
Pre-Operative Physicals and More
When a patient is scheduled to undergo surgery, their surgeon may request a pre-op physical to ensure they are healthy enough to safely undergo anesthesia and the subsequent procedure. This evaluation can include a physical exam, lung function exam, cardiac assessment, and necessary lab tests.
Well-Woman Annual Gynecological Exam
Women should start getting one annual physical when they turn 18 or 21, or when they become sexually active. But if you are experiencing symptoms like pelvic pain, vaginal pain, unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, lumps, sores, tenderness, swelling, or other abnormal changes in the breast, you should schedule an exam right away. The physical will include a breast exam, pap smear, urine sample, and an internal and external pelvic exam.
Other Types of Physical Exam
At UrgentMED, we offer all of the physicals mentioned above, and since we accept walk-ins, you can get it done as soon as you come in. Some of the most common physicals we perform at our urgent care center are:
- Annual physicals for men and women
- Pre-employment checkups
- Pre-op checkups
- Sports physicals for adults joining a new team
- School physicals and camp physicals for children attending a new school or joining a new team
- Women’s wellness physicals
- Drug testing
- Strep, mono, and flu testing
- STD testing
- COVID-19 testing
- And other kinds of physicals
How Much Does a Physical Cost at Urgent Care Clinics?
Prices vary by center depending on what type of physical you are getting. Your exact out-of-pocket cost will depend on factors like whether you have insurance, type of insurance, additional tests required, your immunizations, etc. In Los Angeles, CA, annual physicals are covered by most health insurers, so people who have insurance can most likely get it free of charge.
If you have insurance but it doesn’t cover a free annual physical exam, you may be responsible for a copay. Check with your insurance provider for more details.
But what if you don’t have insurance at all? Urgent care centers like UrgentMED provide several low-cost options for uninsured patients, which include comprehensive physicals, PAP smears, and blood work. We accept almost all insurance providers and have affordable rates for those who don’t have insurance but still need medical attention.
Can You Get a Physical at a Walk-In Clinic?
Yes, you can. People think that because it’s an “urgent care” clinic, it only offers medical emergency care but that’s not true at all. You can visit your local urgent care center for any number of preventive care such as physical examinations.
Some urgent care clinics accept both appointments and walk-in patients, while others accept walk-ins only, so you don’t need an appointment. Make sure to call before you go in to ensure an appointment is not necessary to be seen by a healthcare provider.
Here at UrgentMED, we are open 7 days a week and you can walk in whenever you want, no appointments necessary. We perform affordable physicals for adults and children when preparing for sports, camps, school, and work.
What is the Importance Of Routine Physical Exams?
As our doctors like to say, physicals are like airport security – irritating but necessary. Doctors can learn a lot about your overall health by looking at your body and examining it for signs of disease that are not always obvious to you. For example, they may find a suspicious-looking mole on your back where you might have missed it.
Many serious diseases first manifest as little signs before the patient even feels any different. For example, if someone has heart disease, they can be symptomless for years. But their constantly elevated blood pressure numbers can notify the doctor that their arteries might be hardening.
These exams are a great way to catch health concerns early before they become more serious and expensive to treat. By going in for a physical every year, you allow the doctors to keep an eye on your health over time and identify any changes that may be alarming.
You can get a physical today at any of our many urgent care clinic locations in southern California.
How Often Should I Get a Physical?
Children should have a physical every year until they start school. This ensures that they are up to date with their vaccinations. After that, we recommend a physical every 2 years just to keep track of their health.
For adults, a physical is recommended every year, depending on your current health, risk factors, and underlying medical conditions. Our UrgentMED physicians will be happy to give you a recommendation on when your next physical should be.
It should be noted that a physical is different from a wellness visit. If you have been going for annual wellness visits and think they are enough, they are not. Physicals are much more extensive than wellness checks as they involve bloodwork, vision acuity, and many other tests. An annual wellness visit only includes checking your blood pressure, weight, and height.
Wellness checks are all well and good (no pun intended), but you must get a physical to determine what’s really happening in your body. And since a lot can happen in a year, yearly physicals are the way to go.
Where to Get Physical Exam Near Me?
You can pay us a visit at any of our many locations spread across California for a physical. You don’t need to make an appointment, just bring us your paperwork and our medical staff will perform the physical you need. Our goal here is to give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you and your child are in good physical condition.
All of our urgent care clinics are open from 8am to 8pm Monday through Friday and from 9am to 5pm on weekends. We serve patients from Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Calabasas, Culver City, Eagle Rock, Fairfax, Glendale, Hollywood, North Hollywood, Downtown LA, Huntington Park, Lake Forest, Lawndale, Long Beach, Mar Vista, Moorpark, Pasadena City, Rancho Palos Verdes, Santa Monica, Torrance, Tustin City, Burbank, Encino, Long Beach, Pico Rivera, West Hills, Whittier, and more.
If you have any questions about our physicals, leave a message here or call us today.