Differences Between "Physical" & "Physiological"

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While physical and physiological both refer to bodies, physical means the body itself while physiological refers to the body’s functions. Understanding the differences between physical and physiological helps scientists and medical professionals to determine root causes of a variety of conditions in humans, animals and in nature. Both physical and physiological characteristics are important in understanding development, effects, addictions and traits among humans and all other species.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

In the world of medicine, physiology represents the study of the biochemical, physical and mechanical functions of the human body. It connects medicine, science and health to create a structure for doctors to understand how the physical being adapts to disease, activity and stress. Doctors use the physical health as a sign of a body’s condition, while they use physiological aspects to define how well the body and its various parts function.

Physical and Physiological Development

Physical development refers to the growth of the physical body, such as growth of hair, bones, muscles, organs or any other physical aspect of a species. Physiological development, on the other hand, refers to the body’s capacity to increase certain functions of the body. For example, a long-distance runner over time builds strong muscles, a physical development, but he will also increase his ability to transfer oxygen faster, a physiological development.

The Effects on Bodies

Effects on the body are important, particularly in healthcare. A physical effect of an injury, like a broken bone, represents a physical break of the bone, while a physiological effect of that broken bone denotes the body’s response to it -- through the functions of transduction, transmission, perception and modulation – and results in you feeling pain. In addition, the physiological response of modulation attempts to inhibit the pain so that it doesn’t overwhelm the physical body and cause an important physical part of the body to fail, such as the heart.

Addictions and Effects

Addiction affects the body physically and physiologically. A physical symptom of an addiction refers to the changes that take place in the body, as with a damaged liver from heavy drinking. The physiological symptom of addiction might include changes in behavior, as the body’s natural chemical processes are affected with the introduction and continued use of the addictive substance.

Physical and Physiological Traits

Recognizing the differences in physical and physiological traits helps scientists understand the differences and similarities among species. Because there are many physiological similarities among all species, like DNA replication, physiological traits usually evolve to help an organism fit into its ecology. A physical trait, on the other hand, can refer to a large brain, opposable thumbs or lack of fur.


About the Author

Kenneth W. Michael Wills is a writer on culture, society and business. With more than 15 years of experience in sales, public relations and written communications, Wills' passion is delighting audiences with invigorating perspectives and refreshing ideas. He has ghostwritten articles on a diverse range of topics for corporate websites and composed proposals for organizations seeking growth opportunities.