What do you mean by anatomy and physiology?

Written by Marydel O. Cagadas

Defining anatomy will lead you to its Greek origin broken down into, ana which means “up” and temnein – “to cut.” Physiology formulated by the Greek terms physis – “nature or origin” and logia – “study of.”

Anatomy aims to understand the organs and structures of an organism. It started in Ancient Greece and developed through the time of the Renaissance. From dissection, it progressed to the use of technology such as non-invasive imaging.

To explain further, it provides you a context for the structure and location of all organs in the body. This field studies every part of a human. You will learn starting from molecules to cells up to how they form a functional whole.

From its word breakdown, you can’t still define physiology. It provides insights into the mechanical, physical, etc., processes supporting the body’s function. It’s centered on letting you learn the function of cells, organs, and tissues and how they work.

To recall, remember the direct definition of the two essential terms. Anatomy concentrates on the structure and relationships of the parts which compose an organism. In contrast, physiology focuses on the function of the body and its components.

What do you study in anatomy and physiology?

You have acquired an overview of what lessons are in both fields in the definition earlier. A&P is essential to those who are in the medical area. Of course, you’ll need to learn about the structure of the body and how it functions.

You’ll be able to gain knowledge about the causes, diagnoses, and treatment of diseases. Following these is knowing the effects of different conditions leading to discoveries. Knowing this information helps combat certain illnesses which can be life-threatening.

For example, you could learn how to develop cells or the different muscles used while doing sports. Controversial topics are also present, such as cell cloning, genetic engineering, or the impact of COVID-19 on a human being. These things may sound complex, but they could help you in many ways as they are observable in your everyday life.

Through A&P, you’ll be able to learn two distinct approaches to study a living organism. In anatomy, the focus will be on the structure of the organs and tissues that make up the biological systems. In comparison, physiology will always point out the functions of the different organ systems and their components.

Both areas of science are broad but are necessary. For someone who aims to be part of the medical workforce, a complete understanding of both A&P is essential. These fields may be vast, but one can familiarize and master both with reasonable effort and technique.

What are the 5 branches of anatomy?

As we all know, there are different branches in this field. There are two major types: Gross (Macroscopic) and Microscopic. Gross or macroscopic are observable through your naked eye, while microscopic studies the tiny anatomical structures.

These two significant types mentioned above have other subdivisions or classifications.

For Gross, which focuses on the external and internal organs, there are three different fields:

  • Surface or Superficial – is the study of external anatomical feature which doesn’t need dissection.
  • Regionalconcentrates on a human’s specific external and internal regions (e.g., head or chest). This type includes the unity of different systems in a particular area.
  • Systemic – this branch emphasizes the structure of different organ systems (e.g., circulatory or nervous system.) This branch gauges the position and structure of deeper organs, tissues, and organ systems.

Moving on towards microscopic, which helps you understand cells and tissues, there are two classifications, which are as follows:

  • Cytologystudies the structure and function of cells.
  • Histology – explains the details and organization of biological tissues.

The branches mentioned above are only the branches that aid you in learning the structure of humans, also known as anthropotomy (Study.com). There are still many branches that you can discover and here are few more examples:

  • Zootomy – the anatomical study of animals.
  • Phytotomy – the anatomical study of plants.
  • Comparative Anatomy compares the anatomical characteristics of different organisms.

What are the basics of anatomy?

In such a broad topic as this topic, you would wonder how to start learning this field. For an easier route to explain the basics, there are two objectives you need to achieve:

  • Identify specific terms used to describe directions and positions.
  • Describe the different organ systems.

Starting with the first objective, the following are the anatomical terms you need to remember:

  • Anatomical positionstandard reference position for the body in the study of anatomy. In this specific position, the body stands erect, facing the observer, arms down at the sides, and palms facing front.
  • Plane a flat surface formed when slicing through a solid object. A plane is observable when you cut through a dummy or imaginary human body.
  • Midlinethe imaginary line drawn down the center of the body. This divides it into right and left halves. This is in line with the navel.
  • Medialrefers to a position closer to the midline. For example, you would say: “The bridge of the nose is medial to the eyes.”
  • Lateralrefers to a position farther away from the midline. Example: The ears are lateral to the nose.
  • Bilateralon both sides.
  • Mid-axillarya line drawn perpendicular from the middle of the armpit to the ankle.
  • Anterior/Ventralfront of the body or organ.
  • Posterior/Dorsalback of the body or organ.
  • Superiormeans above (e.g., the chest is superior to the abdomen).
  • Inferiormeans below (e.g., the lips are inferior to the nose).
  • Proximalcloser to the torso (e.g., the elbow is proximal to the hand).
  • Distalaway from the torso (e.g., the wrist is distal to the shoulder).
  • Mid-clavicular lineline through the center of each clavicle.

Moving on to the second objective, which is to describe the different organ systems. These are the essential things you need to remember from each organ system:

Musculoskeletal Systemprovides structure to the body, allows movement, and protects the other systems. Built with various bones and muscles, this is system have the following components:

  • Skull – primary function is to enclose and protect the brain. It provides a structure for the face and allows movement of the head.
  • Spineconsists of 33 vertebrae stacked one upon the other to form the spinal column. It is important for movement, sensation, and other vital functions.
  • Thoracic Cage (Rib Cage)protects the lungs and heart. It holds a vital role in the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
  • Pelvic girdleis one of the most complex anatomical structures. It contains several attachment points for various large muscles groups of both the trunk and legs.
  • Limbsarms and legs; composed of many different joints and attachment points to allow precise and varied movement.
  • Muscles consist of a bundle of smaller fibers (myofibrils) anchored to a bone via a tendon and innervated by nerves—three types: voluntary, involuntary, and cardiac.

Circulatory Systemits role in the delivery of oxygen and glucose to cells and removal of waste.

  • The system consists of a pump, pipes, and the fluid they carry.
  • Heart the four-chambered pump: two upper called atria and two lower called ventricles.
  • AtriaRight Atrium: the chamber that receives unoxygenated blood returning from the body; Left atrium: the chamber that receives oxygenated blood from the lungs.
  • VentriclesRight Ventricle: the chamber that sends oxygen-poor blood to the lungs; Left Ventricle: the chamber that sends oxygen-rich blood to the body.
  • Blood Vessels smooth muscle tubes that can expand and contract. It does not only carry blood but regulates its flow to different areas of the body. Types: arteries, veins, venules, and capillaries – all have distinct functions.
  • Bloodred liquid that flows through the body of a living organism. It has many components in different cells: red blood cell (RBC), white blood cell (WBC), platelets, etc.

The Nervous Systemcontrols the entire body. It involves the fibers that run across every inch of the body, which controls muscles, organs, and glands. Two divisions:

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) composed of the brain and spinal cord. Neurons make up both structures and support cells together with large blood vessels and capillaries.
  • Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)extensive and covers all areas of the body. It’s composed of nerves that have numerous functions: it controls the movement, organ function and returns sensory information towards the spinal cord and brain.

Digestive System – exists to break down and absorb ingested material for energy & creation of new cells.

  • It has two divisions: hollow organs and solid organs.

Respiratory Systemits role is to bring oxygen from the air. An organism can only get oxygen through blood circulation.

  • Hollow Organs composed of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
  • Esophagus: a physical tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.
  • Stomach: both grinds up food and digest it with acid.
  • Intestines: absorbs nutrients (small); resorption of water and formation of feces (large).
  • Solid organs composed of the liver and pancreas.
  • Liver: has a dual purpose of producing bile – helps absorb fats in the intestines and detoxify the blood.
  • Pancreas: also has a dual role – production of enzymes that break down protein and hormones that balance blood glucose.
  • Upper Respiratory Tract – (nose & mouth) handles the initial cleaning and warming of air before transmission to the lower airways. It carries air, food & fluids to the esophagus.
  • Lower Respiratory Tracttransfers air through a branching inverted three made up of the trachea, bronchi, bronchioles until it reaches the alveoli. These organs are responsible for how blood gets oxygen.
  • Diaphragm: a sheet of muscle at the base of the lungs. It pulls air into the airways through the negative pressure in the chest.

Integumentary Systemprovides the physical barrier between the inner systems of the body and the outside environment. Three main layers:

  • Epidermis: a thick layer of dead cells. It acts as the sacrificial layer of the body.
  • Dermis: living skin layer with cells that continue to multiply and divide.
  • Subcutaneous layer: fat storage that acts as a significant insulating layer for the body.

You can explore more organ systems, but the mentioned six systems are the most common ones.

What is the main difference between anatomy and physiology?

This question goes back towards the definition of both terms wherein; anatomy is the study of the structures associated with the human body. Meanwhile, physiology is the study of the function of each system. Both offer distinct ways of studying a living organism.

Both fields have different subjects to study. Anatomy focuses on the size, shape, and location of a living organism’s body structures. In comparison, physiology focuses on the chemical, physical, and electrical processes of the organism.

Anatomy can stand alone. You can understand it through the dissection of one living organism. In contrast, physiology needs to be together to understand each organ’s function and its systems.

Although anatomy can be independent, it is still essential to learn both fields as they are necessary to medical science.

Why is anatomy so important?

It is essential for countless reasons. But for allied health providers, it is necessary as the concerns of your patients’ needs knowledge in this field.

Let’s start by discussing diagnoses. Upon diagnosing a patient for a particular disease, anatomy plays a vital role in pinpointing the specific location of the pain they feel. You can also determine through it why this abnormality is fatal.

Identification of physical symptoms or irregularities are not the only things discovered through anatomy. At a microscopic level, you can identify new diseases through the study. With the help of this identification, you can explore how to combat these illnesses.

After diagnosis, through anatomy, it is easier to help your patients understand what disease they have. A complete understanding of this field is a must to simplify complex terms for those not in the medical field. Making your patients understand can help in letting them feel at ease despite the pain they are feeling.

Remember that you need to understand the structure of a human and the corresponding functions of each system. There is an interconnection between organ systems that a disease in one system can affect the others. Without considering these connections, it can be dangerous and may lead to misdiagnosis.

The field of medicine requires three things:

  1. You must have the character to be able to support and help patients.
  2. You must have the specific technical knowledge necessary to make justified decisions.
  3. You must have the required clinical skills to use the knowledge you have learned.

Learning anatomy falls to the second condition. Thus, it is essential. It is challenging to master this field, but you can do it with perseverance and hard work.

Is studying anatomy hard?

As mentioned earlier, learning anatomy is challenging. You need to have a considerable amount of time and dedication. Perseverance, patience, and hard work are necessary because there are no shortcuts.

Expect that you need to invest 10-12 hours or even more per week of studying. This time estimation is only for study sessions you spend during breaks or outside class. Time management is vital while learning this field.

It needs a lot of memorization. This skill includes both visuals (cadavers, 3D models, charts) and the definition of terms. It would be best if you prepared techniques so you can store all information.

Critical thinking is also a component that you need to consider. With it, you’ll be able to identify a part of anatomy based on clues. This skill needs countless enhancements before you can acquire it.

Even though it is challenging, learning anatomy is not impossible. You need to develop the proper study techniques. Being equipped with all the mentioned values, skills, and practices would guarantee your learning.


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