What Happens During a Physical?

During a routine physical, a doctor or nurse takes note of a patient’s weight and records the individual’s vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and respiration rate. Blood and urine tests are also commonly performed to detect nutritional deficiencies, diabetes and high cholesterol, according to WebMD.

Doctors listen to a person’s heartbeat and inner workings of the lungs by placing a stethoscope on various points of the chest and back while asking the patient to take deep breaths and exhale, WebMD adds. Physicians also have discussions with patients about their family’s medical history to determine the risk that a person may develop hereditary health complications, such as cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, later in life.

Physicals differ for male and female patients due to the necessary exams that must be performed on their genitals, WebMD explains. Women commonly receive a Pap smear to detect for abnormal cervical cells, and a doctor also examines a woman’s ovaries, vagina, vulva, nipples and breast tissue. Men must undergo an examination of their testicles, prostate and penis, and doctors perform hernia exams by holding a man’s testicles while he turns his head to cough. Doctors should also use their hands to press around a patient’s abdominals to detect for swollen organs, such as the liver or kidneys, notes WebMD.