Physio A Brief History

Physio a brief history, or so we will attempt to do.

If someone where to ask you how physical therapy began, where would YOU begin? Believe it or not, it is recognized that the first practitioner of physio(or physical therapy) was Hippocrates, in around 460 B.C.E. Later he was followed by Galen, however Hippocrates advocated techniques such as massage, manual therapy and hydrotherapy to treat patients. Once this type of therapy had established it’s foundation, it was not until the 18th century that progress of a more technical and scholastic nature began to come to the fore.

Physio A Brief History – The Modern Chapter

It was in the 18th century that orthopedics were developed. Following this the Gymnasticon was developed to treat gout and similar diseases. How did it do this? Systematic exercise of the joints was used in a way that is similar to developments in physical therapy that came later.

The Development of More Organized Therapy

Around 1813, a development came to the fore that would set the precedent for modern physical therapy. It was the organization of the field into a professional occupation. At this time Per Henrik Ling, dubbed the “Father of Swedish Gymnastics” founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics. It’s purpose? Manipulation and exercise. Eventually, in 1887, it was given official recognition by Sweden’s national board of health and welfare. This opened up the way for the professional side of this medical discipline to expand further. Subsequently, in 1894, four nurses founded the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in the U.K. Others soon followed, such as The School of Physiotherapy at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1913, and, the Reed College of the United States in 1914 with “reconstruction aides”.

Physio A Brief History – Motivation

So, what was the motivation for this progress? Events around the globe were the driving force behind the progress. American orthopedic surgeons began treating disabled children, also employing women who had been trained in remedial massage and physical education. This was helpful with the soon to follow Polio outbreak that occurred in 1916. Also, during that period, at the time of the first world war, recruitment of women occurred to assist with the purpose of restoring physical function to injured soldiers. This event in particular, not only built further upon the professional nature of physical therapy, but, also enabled it’s function to be institutionalised. Further developments would soon follow. In 1921, the first physical therapy research was released, entitled “the PT Review”. In 1924, the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation advocated that polio could be treated through the administration of physical therapy. The 1950’s saw the spread throughout Commonwealth countries of manipulative procedures to the spine and extremity joints. Another advancement later int he 1950’s saw the movement away from hospital based treatments to clinics, schools, outpatient clinics etc.


In 1974, a significant development occurred in the U.S. with the Orthopedic section of the APTA being formed for physical therapists who specialized in Orthopedics. During the same year, the International Federation of Orthopedic Manipulative Physical Therapists was formed.

So, what a rich history this field has! Coming from humble beginnings through the efforts of pioneers, the field gradually became professional, then institutionalized, then spread it’s influence through more specialized practices, and, then came under the influence of National and International bodies.

At Window Cleaning Perth, we know how the value of knowing the history of something can build our appreciation for it, so we hope that this brief history of the Physio practice will increase your respect for this vital discipline.





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