History of Physical Therapy



Physical therapy is a medical profession dealing and treating patients with disabilities, disease or severe injury or trauma resulting to immobility or less body function. Treatments provided are dedicated in resolving these disabilities and reducing the patient’s discomfort especially for pain management treatments.

There are doctors who would rather have their patients go to physical therapist than surgery. Physical therapy can address different kinds of physical problems, it can be orthopaedic, neurological, vascular or even respiratory problems.

Physical therapy history can be traced as early as the period of Hippocrates and Hector who were the earliest physicians. Which is why physical therapy or physiotherapy is considered an old medicine. Hippocrates, Hector and ancient Greece physicians started using massage and hydrotherapy to treat illnesses.

Hydrotherapy is a method of treatment using water. Hydrotherapy uses the properties of water like pressure and temperature to have therapeutic effects on the patient’s body. With hydrotherapy the body releases the toxins and said to treat certain diseases. This kind of physical therapy can be traced to ancient cultures in China, Japan and Rome.

Ancient Greek has been using massage since 460 B.C. But the earliest documented use of actual physical therapy as a profession can be traced on 1894 in Great Britain. There were four nurses that formed the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. New Zealand followed when they formed their own organization in 1913. The United States closely followed when they formed their own organization in 1914.

In 1916, there was an epidemic of poliomyelitis or most popularly known as polio in New York and New England. Many cases of poliomyelitis can lead to temporary paralysis, but without proper treatment the paralysis can be lifetime effect. During this period, there were documentation of young women treating patients of the epidemic.

After its introduction, physical therapy was introduced at Walter Reed College and Hospital of Portland, Oregon. Physical therapists were first referred to as “reconstruction aides.” After World War I, there were schools that taught physical therapy. The reconstruction aides played a major role during the war by providing military medical services.

After these discoveries, physical therapy continued moving on. The first research about physical therapy in the United States was published in March 1921 in The PT Review. An association which is now the American Physical Therapy Association was first established in this decade. As they learned from experience, physical therapy was used to cure or restore muscle functionality on polio patients in 1924.

World War II prompted another historical period where physical therapy became widely used to care for patients. Physical therapy was used and showed impressive results in veterans who have been injured in the Korean and Vietnam wars. This signalled the start of using physical therapy in hospital and medical programs.

Treatments in this decade were mostly exercise, massage and traction. During 1950s, physical therapists started learning and doing procedures in the spine and other joints. These manipulative procedures improved through continuous research and studies.

Eventually in 1974, the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy was formed. This organization has then played and is continuously playing a major role in the advancement and development of physical therapy. Several people who made notable contributions in physiotherapy and members of the organization are Mariano Rocabado from Chile, Freddy Kaltenborn feom USA and Geoffrey Maitland from Australia.

Physical therapy completely evolved in the 1980s upon the emergence of computers, electrical equipments, ultrasounds and other medical instruments. Physical therapy has continuously developed and is a field that continuously evolving. It has played a major role in health care services. The future is bright for this profession, since according to research, it would grow by 27 percent until 2016.







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