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History Of Physical Therapy

Updated: Mar 30

What is the origin of physical therapy?

The origin of physical therapy dates back to Ancient Greece circa 460 BC where Hector practiced a physiotherapy technique called “hydrotherapy” which means “water therapy” in Greek. However, the origin of this form of therapy was not only limited to Greeks at that time since according to the ancient writings from Persia, China and as well as illustrates that people of these nations were also practicing physical therapy and benefiting of this exercise and movements.  

The first documented proof of physical therapy comes from the old master of medicines – Hippocrates. The idea of manual manipulation for pain relief was given as an idea by him in the year 460 BC.

Since then, physiotherapy has seen many evolutions and developments being a single massage to a complex portfolio of therapies with many specialized applications which is now being used in thousands of professional rehabilitation clinics around the globe.

Physical therapy history during the mid-90s

Many of the physical therapy treatments, until the Second World War, were being carried out in hospitals on patients who get recovered from surgeries, injuries and as well as other conditions.

It was only during the war that specialty physical therapy clinics were founded to serve treatments for thousands of wounded soldiers who needed various kinds of rehabilitation during hospital stays.

The increasing popularity of physical therapy was represented by the transition to outpatient care.

The ‘International Federation of Orthopedic Manipulative Therapy’ was established during the formation period of the first physical therapy or the manual therapy treatments when it started to spread worldwide in 1974.

Later, when the implementation of computers was introduced and become prevalent in Medical Science physiotherapy saw further development in the 1980s. In addition, the efficiency of the treatment improved with the introduction of various devices such as electrical stimulators which were started to be utilized in physiotherapy practices.

Physiotherapy profession or field saw increasingly diversification during the next two decades. APTA started to recognize specializations such as cardiopulmonary physical therapy, skin therapy, neurological therapy, and sports therapy.

Nowadays, rehabilitation clinics or as well as hospitals use physiotherapy as one of the efficient ways to treat a variety of conditions and ailments. Individuals suffering from chronic back painarthritis, Alzheimer’s diseaseParkinson’s disease,  and a host of other conditions can significantly benefit from physiotherapy sessions.

In general, once patients get their consultation with their physicans they will be informed of the relevant physiotherapy treatments for their current condition and unique needs. However, the main goal of having the treatment is to see a pain reduction, development in a range of motion, increasing endurance and strength and as well as relieving stress and improve the quality of life for the individual.

History Of Physical Therapy Profession

The history of physical therapy as a profession dates back to Per Henrik Ling, who is known as the “father of Swedish gymnastics.” He was the one who established the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in the year 1813 which served massage, manipulation, and exercise.

The term “Physiotherapy” first appeared in 1851 in its German form “Physiotherapie” in an article written by Dr. Lorenz Gleich. He was a military physician from Bavaria. Later, with the time, the term evolved and changed to “Physiotherapy” and then to “Physical therapy.”

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