Physicals or the physical exams are an essential part of a visit to the doctor’s office. A routine physical does not really have any well-defined absolutes, and the doctor may conduct a brief or detailed exam depending on the situation. If there is a new medical concern, or the doctor feels the patient’s lifestyle may ordain more evaluation, he or she may conduct a more thorough physical. A physical will usually also include listening to the patient’s health concerns and offering counseling or medical advice as necessary.
Components of a Physical
A comprehensive annual physical exam may include the following components:
The doctor may ask the patient about any past ailments, surgeries, and behaviors such as alcohol use or smoking, lifestyle, and sexual health. It will also include a review of the vaccination status and an assessment of the family medical history.
Basic Physical Appearance
The doctor may be able to gather useful information about the patient’s health simply by observing the general physical appearance and checking the mental alertness level. Standing, talking, and walking are common actions that the doctor may observe during a physical.
Assessment of Vital Signs
The doctor will check some of the vital signs to get an idea of the current health condition of the individual. These may include a blood pressure testing, examination of the heart rate and respiration rate, and body temperature testing.
The doctor will check the heartbeat of the patient using a stethoscope to look for any signs of a heart murmur, irregular heartbeat, or other indications of heart disease.
The doctor will use a stethoscope to evaluate the breathing of the patient, and look for wheezing, crackling, or reduced breath sounds. These sounds may present clues to the presence of lung or heart disease.
Mouth, Head, and Neck Exam
The doctor will ask the patient to open the mouth wide open to reveal throat and tonsils. The condition of gums and teeth may also give an indication of general health. Nose, ears, eyes, sinuses, thyroid, and lymph nodes may also be examined.
The doctor may tap on the abdomen to assess liver size and any presence of abdominal fluid, use the stethoscope to listen to bowel sounds, and palpitating for tenderness.
A physical for women may additionally include a breast exam to look for signs of abnormalities or breast cancer, and pelvic exam. A pap test may be conducted to screen for cervical cancer.