During a physical examination, a health care provider studies your body to determine if you do or do not have a physical problem.
A physical examination usually includes:
- Inspection (looking at the body)
In medical terms, “inspection” means to look at the person or body part. It is the first step in a physical exam.
- Palpation (feeling the body with fingers or hands)
Palpation is a method of feeling with the fingers or hands during a physical examination. The health care provider touches and feels your body to examine the size, consistency, texture, location, and tenderness of an organ or body part.
- Auscultation (listening to sounds)
Auscultation is listening to the sounds of the body during a physical examination. Auscultation is usually done using a tool called a stethoscope. Health care providers routinely listen to a person’s lungs, heart, and intestines to evaluate these things about the sounds:
- Percussion (producing sounds, usually by tapping on specific areas of the body)
Percussion is a method of tapping body parts with fingers, hands, or small instruments as part of a physical examination. It is done to determine:
- The size, consistency, and borders of body organs
- The presence or absence of fluid in body areas
Percussion of a body part produces a sound, like playing a drum. The sound is a sign of the type of tissue within the body part or organ.
- Lungs sound hollow on percussion because they are filled with air.
- Bones, joints, and solid organs such as the liver sound solid.
- The abdomen sounds like a hollow organ filled with air, fluid, or solids.