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What to expect during a physical examination


In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: - Head - Eyes - Ears - Nose - Chest - Abdomen - Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists - Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: - Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual - Checking your skin, hair, and nails - Checking your organ size and shape - A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam.