What is Clinical Physiology?

Integrative physiologists may work with athletes as a sports trainer.
Doctors with orthopedic specialties apply their knowledge of physiology to problems concerning the effects of backpacks on the backs of children.
Knowledge of endocrine system physiology has given rise to drugs and treatments to aid sexual performance.
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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2015
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Clinical physiology is the study of human physiology as it relates to the medical practice. Human physiology is the study of the physical, mechanical, and biochemical aspects of humans. Physiology is different from anatomy in that it focuses on functions and processes more than on design and organization. Many doctors and physicians study clinical physiology to understand and repair various functions in the human body.

A very broad field, physiology relates to many things that physicians do on a daily basis. For example, doctors with orthopedic specialties apply their knowledge of physiology to problems concerning the effects of backpacks on the backs of children. They also focus on intramuscular pressure and on movement in reduced gravity. Physiology is not just related to muscles and bones, though; physicians of all specialties must have some knowledge of the field.

Physiology is a massive and diverse field of study that has led to many other branches, such as biochemistry, biophysics, and pharmacology. Clinical physiology combines all of these for actual medical applications. When medical specialists apply their general physiology knowledge to the treatment of patients, they are practicing clinical physiology. Medical practitioners need to know what effects the sedatives, steroids, and other chemicals they give patients will have.


Often, students begin learning about physiology in high school anatomy or biology courses. College biology and pre-medical courses cover general physiology with greater depth, and medical schools impart in-depth knowledge of human physiology. Clinical physiology courses are often specialized based on the system of the body they involve. Examples include cardiac physiology and respiratory physiology.

Drug developers rely heavily on physiological knowledge, as they need to understand the reactions between systems of the human body and the medications they develop. Knowledge of the endocrine system, the body's chemical message system, has given rise to many drugs and treatments that affect everything from mental illnesses to sexual performance. General physiological knowledge was used to develop drugs for specific clinical uses.

Clinical physiology will likely always have a place in the medical field, and is a study that continues to grow as scientists continue to learn about the workings of the human body. New drugs are always being developed and new treatments for a whole host of illnesses and ailments are constantly being tested. All of these rely on an in-depth knowledge of physiology being applied to practical medical procedures. Clinical physiology is and will likely continue to be an essential part of the medical profession.


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Post 4

Clinical physiology is also a medical specialty in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. There are articles online about it.

Post 3

@Anna32 - If you think that the knowledge needed in human clinical physiology is vast, just think about the knowledge required in clinical anatomy and physiology for veterinary technicians! They have to know everything about the inner workings of animal bodies from a broad range of species. Veterinarians don't get as much respect as physicians in general because they work with pets, but when you think about it, they really do have to know a whole lot more to get the job.

Post 2

I would be interested to know how clinical physiology and clinical psychology relate to one another. If all the systems of the body relate to one another as the article suggests, would it not make sense that this would include the functions of the mind as well?

The placebo effect, for example, shows that the body can heal itself if a person believes a treatment will work. So given that, do clinical physiology courses also include instruction in psychology and how does a physician learn to reconcile the two?

Post 1

I have to tip my hat to any clinical physiologist. Think about it: the article says basically they have to know everything about everything concerning how the body works and interacts together.

That's a whole lot of knowledge! I think that's the biggest reason, too, why it is so important to have specialists in different fields. There is no way that any one doctor would be able to obtain a deep working knowledge of every single thing that clinical physiology entails.

They may have a basic understanding from med school, but to actually be able to retain all of that information would be nothing short of miraculous.

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