Although modern machines like an interactive balance force plate or a tracker laser may make diagnosing and treating conditions a little easier, physical therapy dates back well before any of these technologies existed. But when did physical therapy as a treatment technique really take its common form, and what do we know about the origins of the practice? We take a brief look at the history of physical therapy in today’s blog.
The Origins Of Physical Therapy
Believe it or not, the idea of treating health conditions with physical movements and strength training techniques dates back thousands of years. Hippocrates began advocating for the use of manual therapy techniques, massage and water-based movements to treat some of his patients around 435 B.C. And while others would continue to build on those ideas over the centuries to come, physical therapy really didn’t start to take its modern form until the early 1900’s.
There were two main events that have been credited with the adoption of physical therapy as a more common technique to treat patients – World War I and the polio epidemic. Both of these events led to a large influx of individuals who required care to overcome or adapt to physical challenges. Returning soldiers and recovering children needed to find ways to thrive in the face of their newfound physical limitations, and physical therapy was just the technique to help them.
In 1921, the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association was created, and all 274 of its charter members were female. They began helping treat patients in hospitals or in field stations, and due to the success of the treatment, the need for more skilled physical therapists grew. Just a year later, the group changed their name to the American Physiotherapy Association and men were allowed to join.
Over the next 20 years, the association grew to more than 8,000 members across the country, and the main techniques used were massage, traction and exercise therapy. The group underwent their final name change to what it remains today – the American Physical Therapy Association – in 1947, and manual therapy techniques were regularly introduced to care for joint and spine problems in the 1950s.
In the 1950s and 1960s, physical therapy began to become normalized in non-hospital settings, like outpatient clinics, public schools, geriatric care facilities and rehabilitation centers. As we’ve learned more about the body, we’ve also updated the level of education required to become a physical therapist, as a doctoral degree is now required of graduates hoping to become physical therapists.
Tens of millions of people have seen the benefits of physical therapy first hand over the years, and we’re glad to continue a practice rooted in helping people become healthier. To add your name to the list of people who have successfully recovered after an injury or surgery with a physical therapy program, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.
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