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Physician Balance Beam Scales - Doctor Medical Scale With Height Bar

Updated on August 29, 2013

The physician's balance beam scale, or doctor's office scale if you prefer, has been the standard form of weight measurement in just about every medical office I have been in for as far back as I can remember. There's a good reason for this: they're the best way to accurately measure weight. It's as simple as that.

If you have a strain-guage or spring-loaded bathroom scale at home or a digital weighing machine in your bathroom then you will probably have seen the results you get are rarely repeatable. Weigh yourself once, step off and weigh yourself again and the chances are the readings will be different. Move the scale to another part of the floor and again, watch the difference. These scales are designed to be accurate within a certain range and when you start to approach their maximum weight level, their accuracy can really start to decrease.

Physician beam scales are made with accuracy in mind and they're not just for the doctor's office either as there are plenty of very accurate and easy to use medical scales made for the home user as well. This lens features both and only features top rated balance beam scales from some of the most well regarded manufacturers so you can buy with confidence.

Top Recommended Physician Scale For Home Use

Healthometer 402KL Physician Beam Scale w/ Height Rod (390 lb / 180 kg)
Healthometer 402KL Physician Beam Scale w/ Height Rod (390 lb / 180 kg)

This scale is just like the one's you'll find in a doctor's surgery and comes at a great price from Amazon. The scale is design to take users up to a maximum weight of 350 pounds but this can be increased to 450 pounds with the use of an optional counterweight. This is a well made weighing machine which features a heavy gauge steel base and platform, and rotating poise bars for reading weight levels in both pounds and kilograms. The numbers on the poise bars are engraved into the metal so no need to worry about them wearing off over time either. If you are looking for a well made but cheap physician balance beam scale then Health o Meter has you covered with this model. It also features a height measurement rod which ranges from 30 inches to 78 inches. For professional accuracy at a low price, this doctor's weight measuring scale is the ideal purchase.


Who Makes The Best Physician Scale?

Which is the highly recommended physician's balance beam scale to buy?

There are several different companies who make these physician weighing machines but the big three are Seca, Detecto and Heath o Meter. All three make excellent, well designed and ruggedly manufactured column weighing scales and there is, in all honestly, very little to choose between them. Of course, if you want to buy American, then go with Detecto as of the three, its the only one to make and manufacture its products in the United States.

Digital Bathroom Scales Compared To Physician Scales


Most people are more used to the flat, square bathroom scales seen in a typical home. These are small, lightweight weighing machines which fit just about anywhere but are more typically seen in a bathroom. They may be analog or digital and many of the digital weighing scales measure more than just weight including body fat, bone mass, hydration. BMI and can store information based on different user using them.

Home bathroom scales are typically cheaper than doctor office style scales too but if there are good reasons why you would want to choose a professional medial scale like doctors use instead and these include the following:

They are much more accurate than the typical flat floor scales

The average digital bathroom scale, or mechanical dial scale, is accurate to with a few percentage points. As you reach the maximum weight capacity they are designed to handle this accuracy starts to go out the window and it can be really hard to get a remotely accurate result. For the average joe who really isn't watching their weight too closely, this isn't a big deal. If you are weighing yourself once a month just to keep an eye on things then it doesn't matter if the scale inaccurately says you gained a pound or two when you really didn't.

However, if you are monitoring your weight for medical reasons or are dieting and really want the motivation of knowing exactly how much weight you are losing, then you want a physician scale because those 1/4 pound increments are important motivators and it's very demotivating to see no loss, or worse, a weight gain. Here's a scenario. You weigh 200 pounds and your scale is accurate to within 1% which is good for a digital scale. 1% of 200 is 2 pounds, so there's a scenario where you lose 1 lb in a week and the scale tells you in fact, you gained 1 pound. Not cool. As regular bathroom scales get older they get even more inaccurate so they might be 3% the scale could tell you your weight gain was 5lbs after a week of dieting! Balance beam scales are vastly more accurate, that's why fitness clubs, dietician's and regular doctor's use them.

They last longer and are more durable

The initial outlay for a balance beam scale is certain to be higher than a digital or dial bathroom scale. You are going to pay in excess of $150 for a good doctor's office style scale and professional grade beam scales are going to be in excess of that. For the home, you can comfortably spend between $150 and $200 and get a really good weighing machine which will last you a very long time. In the long run, that initial extra expenditure is going to save you money because a normal bathroom scale really should be replaced every few years as the accuracy declines with use. Replacing a $50 bathroom scale every couple of years gets expensive and that's an expense you can avoid.

The weight results are repeatable

This is probably the number one reason people start looking around for an alternative bathroom scale to the type they have used in the past. There's nothing more annoying than getting a different weight reading every time you step on the scale, or moving it around and getting a new reading on a different patch or floor or flooring type. Why buy a weighing machine which doesn't get the weight right? Worse still, manufacturers of these scales tell you up front they're not accurate but only give a guide to your weight! Standard bathroom scales do not give repeatable weight readings. You might be 200 pounds now, 202 pounds in just 10 seconds and 198 pounds 10 minutes later and that's exactly the tolerances to which they are designed.

We've all seen the type of scale used in the doctor's office so it makes sense that if it's good enough for the professionals then this ought to be the best scale on the market right? Well, correct! Balance beam scales are designed to be accurate with repeatable weight readings. If you weight yourself now your weight will still be the same 10 minutes later.

High Weight Limits Make Them The Best Weight Scales For Obese People

These are designed to work with multiple users of multiple different weight levels. A cheap bathroom scale is fine if you are inder 200lbs but when you start to look for one with a higher maximum weight level then you will start to have problems. Not only that, digitial weighing scales for the bathroom tend to get less accurate with heavy people so if you are a very overweight man or woman who needs a weighing scale then you will get more accurate readings from a mechanical column scale. Good doctor's scales will carry users up to 500lbs in weight and even higher than 500 pounds in many cases. The scales are built for to hold morbidly obese patients without breaking. Even when you can find a scale which can handle obese men and women in a flat floor standing scale there's still the problem of them standing the test of time. That's a lot of stress and strain on one of those machines so again, you will end up replacing them often. Physician balance beam scales are heavy duty weighing machines designed to last through multiple daily uses and with people of all weight ranges. Expect them to last a long time.

The Best Scale For The Elderly and People With Poor Balance

Professional doctor scales are the best choice of weight scale for older people and anyone with poor vision too. The really nice thing about these medical scales is that the weight reading is closer to head height rather than being hidden down between your toes. If you have balance issues then you do not need to be bending over to try to read the weight off the scale dial or digital display. The same goes for people with visual imparement as its better to have the dial in front of you than 5 feet or more away between your feet. As a weighing scale for obese people, well, not to put too finer point on it, it's a little hard to see past your belly sometimes but that's not an issue with a medical weight machine.

How To Use A Physican Scale To Measure Weight and Height

OK, so these are a 'little' more complicated than a standard step on scale but they're still dead easy to use and get highly accurate readings from. The trick is to understand how to position the two weights on the upper and lower calibration bar.

Step 1: Insure everything is set to zero before you are anyone else steps on the scale. Calibrate if necessary.

Step 2: Step on the scale.

Step 3: The lower slider is the large weight which is usually in 50 pound increments so you just take an educated guess on where this weight should be positioned to start. If you think you weigh around 180 then position the lower weight to 150, the upper weight will handle the smaller increments.

Step 4: Slide the upper weight until you start to see the weights starting to balance. Tap or nudge the upper weight gently until everything balances. The end of the beam should be balanced in the center of the notch it sits in on the right hand side.

Step 5: Read your weight! To do this add the lower reading to the upper reading and round to the nearest quarter pound. that's your weight. Rejoice...or not as the case may be.

For a more visual guide on how to use a physician beam scale like those in a doctor's surgery watch the following video guide to weighing a patient on a balance scale.

Measuring Height and Weight On A Beam Scale

Comments Welcome

Submit a Comment

  • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image


    6 years ago

    Not a doctor's office without one. Thanks for the lens.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    this would be good to have around, enjoyed looking at them.

  • lbrummer profile image

    Loraine Brummer 

    7 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

    Doctors must really love their scales because, I swear, if you went in to their office three days in a row they'll want to weigh you every time.


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