What is Somatology?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The term “somatology” comes from Greek roots meaning “body” and “study,” so somatology is the study of the body. This term is used in a number of different ways to describe a variety of activities related to studying the body. Several colleges and universities have departments of somatology which may cover various aspects of this field. The confused uses of this term can sometimes be disorienting, but the meaning of the term is usually clear from the context of a discussion.

Training in somatology can be applied to pathology.
Training in somatology can be applied to pathology.

In one sense, somatology is the study of the body in the sense of anatomy and physiology, to learn about how the parts of the body work together. In this sense, somatology can also refer more generally to the properties associated with living organisms other than humans. The study of anatomy and physiology is important for medical practice, among other things, and is practiced in numerous colleges and universities all over the world.

Somatology may refer to alternative forms of medical treatment such as acupuncture.
Somatology may refer to alternative forms of medical treatment such as acupuncture.

People who work in this area of somatology study a variety of topics related to the body and how it functions. They may be interested in pathology, studying what happens when the body is injured or diseased, and they may also be interested in topics like biomechanics, studying the movement and articulation of the body. Training in this field can be applied to the practice of physical therapy, pathology, and many allied medical professions.

Some people may refer to physical anthropology as “somatology.” In this sense, people are interested in studying the human body as it appears in different cultures, and as it has evolved over time. Somatology can be used to learn more about a specific individual after death, and also to learn more about collective cultures and the history of humans and their close relatives. Somatologists can study topics such as human osteology, human evolution, and primate morphology as part of their work, and they can be found in the field and in the lab.

Some practitioners of alternative medicine may also refer to what they do as somatology. In this sense, the term is used to refer to the study and treatment of the body as a whole, with the application of techniques such as massage, herbal medicine, acupuncture, guided imagery, and so forth to patients. Some people in this branch of the field may focus on providing people with sources of relaxation, with some spas and massage studios referencing somatology in their promotional materials.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I really love this course and I hate it that people look down on it. I think we need more awareness so that people would know how much of a course it is, such as law, medicine, nursing and so on. I am looking into universities that offer this course but it seems they are few.


I have always been interested in biology and wanted to study about the human body. but, the only courses I knew of at the time where all hospital related, that is, a doctor, nurse, etc. and I didn't want to work in such an environment, until I heard of somatology and what it's all about. It has all the "traits" I'm interested in -- that is, beauty, the study of the body and so much more. I think it's a really exciting career. I will be studying it next year. I'm really excited, really can't wait!


There is also something called synthetic somatology which is a study that is a bit far out in my opinion. As far as I know, it's about a project of starting a human colony in space for which real humans would have to be developed synthetically by using an artificial genome. The people who started it claim that it is not about making clones but using knowledge of somatology to produce artificial but also real humans.

I don't know how far this study has actually gotten or even if it is still continuing. I just remember watching a program about it on TV.


My best friend studied somatology and he is working as a physical therapist at a wellness center. Some of his colleagues work at hospitals, private clinics and holistic treatment centers. One even opened up her own spa!

Since this degree teaches just about everything relating to wellness the career options are quite large. I actually used to make fun of his degree until he showed me the subjects he studied. It had anatomy, exercise, physiology, psychology and nutrition- everything I personally would want my physical therapist to know. I don't make fun of his degree anymore.


I am trying to decide which degree I want to go to school for. I have always liked biology and health courses throughout school. My mom is a nurse, and that is also another reason I am interested in this field. I don't want to go to med school and I'm not too sure about nursing either. I know that I want to study anatomy and learn about the different organs and their functions and maybe some pathology too.

I think somatology might be the best route for me to take because it is a wide enough study that I can decide more about what I want to do while I'm in school. The three universities I was interested in going to don't have a degree in somatology though. Can you tell me which specific schools have somatology in the States?

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