Why learn Anatomy?

For me anatomy was always something that I wanted to understand, “how did my body work?”, was something I used to think about growing up. “Was it just squishy flesh and bone underneath our skin or what was really going on under there?”

When I was twelve years old a school friend of mine in Dublin, Ireland, the son of butcher, brought a claw from a chicken or a turkey into school for a show and tell type of lesson. The claw was complete with a short section of its leg with the tendons exposed where the skin finished. We passed the leg around the class taking turns to pull the tendons one at a time, as we watched the claws at the end of the feet, curl and uncurl in response.

Looking at my own wrist and seeing some wirey-tendon-like features moving when I moved my fingers, I began to understand that there was actually things underneath my skin that were important and I wanted to know more about them.

Fast forward until I was 20 years old and I was sitting in the middle row of a night class in anatomy for a fitness instruction certificate, being questioned by the teacher about the shoulder movements she had just taught the class. Having answered all of my questions correctly, albeit with some hesitancy and ums and ehs, I realized I was actually retaining and recalling the information better than the rest of the class, and was surprised at how difficult my fellow group of newbies were finding it.

This ability to retain the basic anatomical language and structure and function of the musculoskeletal system stood to me when I returned to Ireland from backpacking around the world and enrolled on a course combined of three diplomas in personal training, holistic massage and sports massage. Here a deeper knowledge and understanding of anatomy was required. Not only did we learn the common muscles and joints of the body, but we learned ALL of the body’s muscles and joints, and ligaments. This was next level for me! My class was strong and eager to learn. We had fun playing with skeletons and trying to label blank images, it was another steep learning curve.

Another year later I was studying for a bachelor degree in sport rehabilitation in St. Mary’s University London. A course that would enable me open my own sports injury clinic in the UK if I successfully passed through the course and graduated. If I thought my last anatomy lessons were next level, this year was even more thorough and five times faster paced.

The course was laid out in a way that everything revolved around anatomy, they stacked everything intensely in the first year to quickly weed out students, who didn’t have it in them to complete the entire course. I had gone from learning that there is a thing called the anatomical language, and the names of general muscle groups and where they roughly originated and inserted, to learning where all of the body’s muscles and ligaments attached to what bones, to now, in university, being taught which third of which millimeter upon which tubercle a specific blend of certain muscle fibres inserted into and what kind of insertion point that was. Not to mention the type of classification of the muscle’s structure it was. (Oh and what nerve supply serviced the muscle and where the nerve root exited the spinal chord).

But it was something that our anatomy lecturer said to the class in the early part of the first semester that really made me sit up, focus and pay attention. He told that if we “know our anatomy, like really know it in detail, to most minute accuracy and in the most detail, then that will mean the difference between being an average therapist and a therapist that people go to, when they have exhausted all other options because they’ve heard that you really know your stuff”. From that point on, I would constantly make it a habit to remind myself of our anatomy and bring everything back to how our structures interact with each other through movement.

Having a deep understanding of the structure and function has made understanding biomechanics far easier than I originally would have thought, how joints glide and roll passed each other and what structures might be weak at certain ranges of motion about specific joints. It has laid the mechanical ground work for me to progress and focus my most recent learning attention to the nervous system and has allowed me better understand how we interact with our environment from a neurological perspective.

I can honestly say learning from some of the best anatomy teachers in the UK and Ireland at many different stages of my progression through education from fitness certificate to Bachelor degree, has given a thorough understanding of our body’s fundamental structure and function. I hope through this course I can pass on some of the lesson they have taught me on to those who have the same desire and motivation as I did to continually understand this amazing living machine that evolution has given us to experience the world around us with, so they can better help those around them who look to them for advice and support.


Oct 01, 2018

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