Learning all about the body can be the biggest hurdle for many massage students. Many colleges use Anatomy and Physiology classes to weed out nursing and pre-med students, so don’t feel alone if you’re struggling to wrap your mind around the subject.
It’s hard not to be in awe of what your body is doing right now. As you read this:
- The vestibular system is busy relaying a constant stream of signals to your brain about your orientation in space and balance.
- With each breath, mucus is collecting dust, germs, and other matter that has invaded the lungs and is preparing to remove it from your body.
- Your previous meal is on a 25 foot journey through your digestive system, where the nutrients you need will be broken down and stored for energy.
- And that is tiny fraction of what is going on!
The body is amazing and incredibly complex. If you are struggling with anatomy and physiology, you may find yourself wishing the body was a little less amazing and complex.
Why Do So Many Massage Students Struggle with A&P?
I have a few theories why massage students and MBLEx takers struggle with this particular area.
Too Much Information, Too Little Time
Massage programs are typically 6-12 months long. Schools need to cover a tremendous amount of anatomy and physiology education in a short program. They rush through the material in order cover other subjects and to get graduates done on schedule. There is not sufficient time to focus on helping students that struggle with this information.
This is a problem without an easy solution. Massage schools don’t seem to be increasing their time covering these subjects, unless required by their state massage board. If you are still in school and find the pace of your anatomy class to be too fast, you will need to dedicate more time outside of school to go over the materials covered in class.
Some instructors can be dull, boring, under-qualified, or brilliant anatomists that do not know how to explain anatomy in terms new learners can understand.
However, you cannot blame poor instructors and short programs for everything or let it get in the way of your massage career. You are capable of learning on your own.
Light Study Habits
The MBLEx is not a high school exam, it is a professional licensing exam. Managing the time needed to learn a complex subject like A&P is crucial.
If you are struggling with anatomy and physiology, you need to spend a couple hours each day reviewing the subject.
Regardless of why you struggle, as a future healthcare professional, your future clients will rely on your grasp and understanding of this subject.
A&P Is the Foundation of the MBLEx
If you struggle with A&P, you will struggle a great deal with the MBLEx. Why?
Not only does A&P make up 12% of the MBLEx, the subject is the building blocks of many other areas of the exam. Such as:
- Kinesiology (11%)
- Pathology (13%)
- Client Assessment (17%)
- Benefits and Physiological Effects of Massage (14%)
Therefore, A&P impacts a whopping 67% of the exam!
Plain and simple, you need to really learn this subject. I want to help you better understand these concepts so you can pass the MBLEx and become a better massage therapist.
In This Lesson
- I will provide tips for learning and your learning style.
- I will share free resources that cover anatomy better than any college level anatomy course I have taken.
- Finally, there will be a quiz to help you assess your A&P knowledge.
Anatomy vs Physiology
First, we need to find out if are you struggling with Anatomy or Physiology or both? Anatomy and Physiology are not the same thing.
The study of the structure of the body. Where things are located.
Anatomy is mostly memorization and labeling.
Here are some sample anatomy questions:
- Which is medial when in anatomical position, the radius or the ulna?
- Which section comes first in the small intestine: jejunum, duodenum, or ileum?
- Where is the apex of the patella?
- What is the small cluster of capillaries encased in the upper end of a nephron called?
The study of the functions of the body. How parts work and interact.
Physiology also requires memorizing, but more fluid and involved concepts, like a flow chart.
Here are some sample physiology questions:
- During a muscle contraction, what does the sarcoplasmic reticulum release?
- What hormone does the pancreatic alpha cell secrete?
- Which constituent of pancreatic juice helps to digest fats?
- What is the function of serous membranes?
The study of movement of the body, is not included in this section of the MBLEx. Kinesiology is where you will be tested over everyone’s favorite topic, origins and insertions! If you struggle with that subject, read my kinesiology post.
So, after reading this, you should have a better understanding of why you struggle with anatomy and/or physiology. If it is just one, is there a particular body system that you are struggling with learning or understanding?
Learning Style Tips
We all learn differently. Here are some ideas to help identify the best A&P study method for you.
Dissect Your Weakness
At the end of this lesson is the list of each body system. Break down your study by system and begin with the one you understand the least. Continue making a list, working up to the system you understand the best. For each system, first learn the anatomy, then work on the physiology.
If you are a hands on learner, you obviously should try a hands on approach to studying A&P. Family and friends make excellent real-life anatomy models. Get out a washable marker and draw on them. If this not possible, see if your school has anatomical models you can check out.
Make a Model
If you are mechanically or artistically inclined, the process of making a model can be very beneficial for learning about things in the body that we normally cannot see or feel.
My massage school used the Anatomy in Clay concept for teaching muscle anatomy and kinesiology. I found this to be extremely helpful with my long term retention of this information.
If art is your strength, A&P coloring books are not only relaxing, but may be the creative learning resource you need.
Watch or Listen
If you are a visual learner, there are so many excellent videos. Khan Academy offers free, college level instructional videos. I have found it to be one of the best and most helpful resources for those struggling with this subject.
Keep a List of Concepts to Revisit
In class, make note of topics you are struggling with during the lecture. That way you will remember what to study when you get home each day.
If You Are in School, Ask Questions
For example: If the instructor says the right lung consists of three lobes and the left lobe has two lobes, you should know why. If not, ask. The left lung is slightly smaller to make room for the heart. Asking questions can help you fully understand the reasoning behind the body’s structure and function. It’s not random.
Try to Teach Someone
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
Here is a short video on the Feynman Technique, a technique you can use to help learn and retain information you are struggling to understand:
Essentially, it means you need to verbally explain a concept to someone. This may be a friend, fellow student or your dog. This will also make excellent practice for educating your future clients.
Find the Time
Most people need to schedule time everyday to study A&P outside of class. I know some people in massage school are working other jobs or have families waiting at home for them after school. However, during this time in your life, A&P will temporarily need some additional focus to help you reach your goal of becoming a massage therapist.
Rescue time if you are very busy. Study while being a passenger in the car, waiting for the bus, or set your alarm an extra hour early. Remember, this is only temporary.
Use the Many Free Resources Available
What to Expect on the MBLEx
How many anatomy and physiology questions are on the MBLEx?
According to the FSMTB website 12%, approximately 12 questions, pertain to anatomy and physiology on each exam given.
The FSMTB content sheet lists the the following is in the Anatomy and Physiology category:
System Structure (Anatomy)
- Special Senses
System Function (Physiology)
- Special Senses
Tissue Injury and Repair
Concepts of Energetic Anatomy
Ready to Practice?
Here is a short, 25 question quiz. There will be one anatomy and one physiology question per system, so you can see the difference in subjects. Finally, there will be one bonus question on tissue and injury repair.
Thanks for reading, and see you tomorrow!
– Ivy Hultquist