Headache Physical Exam: What is my doctor looking for?

Your physical examination may include:

  • evaluation of vital signs, including temperature, blood pressure, and pulse
  • assessment for weakness in your muscles
  • examination of your ears, mouth, throat, lungs, and heart
  • screening for any abnormalities in your skeleton and joint alignment, particularly of the neck
  • examination of your nervous system by using tests for your reflexes and other methods

Tests and scans are not usually needed to diagnose headaches, so don't expect them.


A physical exam is an important tool in diagnosing your headache pain. It can help rule out other, more serious disorders. Sometimes, headache pain can be caused by very serious conditions such as an aneurysm, tumor, stroke, meningitis or encephalitis . It would be rare if these conditions were causing your headache, because the headache would be accompanied by other symptoms. Still, it is important to rule them out.

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