Doesn't Anyone Do Physicals Anymore?

I remember when I was a kid that getting a physical at the doctor involved not just being so nervous I could pee all the way from the car to the examination room, but it involved something that there seems to be so little of... time.  A "physical" involved having a physical examination.  Checking, eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart, reflexes, my walk, my stance and LOTS of palpation.  So it took quite a bit of time because it also involved a lot of questions and a lot of talking. That doesn't seem to be the definition of a physical now.  In the 10-15 minutes that is allotted for each "physical" examination, there is very little actual contact at all.  In fact, a physical used to involved palpating the abdomen, the back, the breast area and really looking at all the parts of my body that I couldn't see, and making lots of notes.  Now it is all about the doctor sitting on the other side of the room and barely looking at me twice.  Ordering tests, looking at tests and making 99% of their recommendations as the result of tests seems to be the basis for everything.  And the goal is to give me a name for whatever group of symptoms and conditions I have.  It's almost as if, once there's a "name", then their job is done.  I'm not looking for a name, I'm looking for a solution.  I don't care if there is a name, I want to know why.

This testing approach to physicals has created a patient that expects that no palpation should be done, so patients now get freaked out if the doctor does have to really palpate and touch them.  The patient expects there will be tests, so if the doctor can figure something out with a test, the patient assumes the doctor isn't paying enough attention, or is not really a good doctor.  If the doctor asks lots of questions, the patient wonders why.

So what has happened to us and to our health care system that we expect so little?  The truth is that every "tests" that has been created has a broad range of what "normal" is which is based on the general population of people that have gotten that test as well as what the accepted standard is in the medical community (really the labs).  But is everything testable?  The answer is very simply, no.  There are only tests for things that actually are testable, and much of the way in which the body works is a mystery to tests.

For instance adrenal fatigue is not a testable condition.  There isn't even an accepted AND accurate test for cortisol levels, which fluctuate throughout the day.  The truth is that almost all of our body chemicals fluctuate and a test can show varying things depending on the time of day, the amount of stress, the food you ate, when you last ate, whether its cold or hot outside and all the vitamins, herbs and medications you are taking.  I've had many people come in with handfuls of hair falling out, wanting to take a nap on my floor, feeling like they have a lump in their throat the size of a golf ball and their blood tests show their thyroid is "normal".

We have to be the first to change.  We have to understand how the medical system works, what a visit to the doctor can realistically tell us and prepare ourselves to get the answers we need.  We also need to be willing to take responsibility for our own decision-making when it comes to our health and our bodies and not shove the decisions on to our doctor.  They are restricted by laws and liability and they can't honestly tell us what they would do if they were in our situation.  So we have to use all the information they can tell us, do some of our own research, and look to both allopathic medicine and natural medicine to see what options exist for bringing our bodies back into balance.

We also need to be able to palpate our own bodies and know what is normal and abnormal for us.  We need to ask for copies of all of our tests that we have done and do some interpreting of our own through the internet so that we understand what questions we should be asking and what really is important to know.  Remember that a test only says one thing - what your body is doing at that moment.  The doctor gives you his OPINION of what the test result means, which may or may not be true for you.  He can only tell you about the general populace, because even if you have seen the same doctor for twenty years, he won't remember your body, nor your individual issues.  That is what a record is for, and don't be afraid to ask for a copy of your patient record.  It can have a lot of enlightening information that he doesn't have the time to convey to you.  You also have to tell the doctor what information you understand and do not understand because you want to leave your appointment informed, not confused.

And above all, never ever be afraid of your own body or what your body is doing.  Whatever it's doing it is doing for a reason, and it's up to you to discover what that reason is, so make that your goal.

Physicals used to be about finding the why and then the how so that you could understand your symptoms and then work with your doctor to find a solution.  Now even the solution is limited to a prescription for medication(s), a schedule for more tests or a "try this" option.  But the real "why" is now ignored in favor of a "name" for my condition.  So our job should be to get the "why" and then to ask the doctor for his suggestions for a solution.  This should be followed by your own research and your own decision as to what solution makes sense for your "why".  If you don't get a "why" than no solution makes sense.

So use your physical wisely and remember to get your why, get an opinion and then go home, listen to your body and make your own decision.  Your body is worth listening to.