Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Physical Therapy from a Historical Perspective

Physical Therapy has been able to treat a variety of pain issues associated with athletic injury, back or neck pain, and accident-induced injury just to name a few. In other words, physical therapy treats several musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. This specific practice, similar to modern medicine, has constantly been evolving over the last century and has a better chance and resolving pain related issues than ever before. Physical therapy has a profound, international past. This practice is globally known as “physiotherapy”, but in the U.S., we refer to it as physical therapist. That means if one was to travel abroad and seek treatment, they would have to ask for a “physiotherapist”, not a physical therapist.

If we were able to travel back in time, around 460 B.C., we would see forms of physiotherapy practiced through massage and hydrotherapy (water therapy). That is the earliest account of physical therapy. Around the late 19th century though, it evolved to where people were actually being trained in the practice. It spread from England to other regions very quickly and began to gain a significant amount of popularity. In the United States however, physical therapy took its position in the early 20th century around Portland, Oregon. This is where Reed College and Walter Reed Hospital graduated its first physical therapy students which were referred as “reconstruction aides”. These were certified nurses with experience and knowledge in physical therapy used to help manage the detrimental effects of World War I. It was during this time when the scientific method of physical therapy was introduced in hospitals as a form of rehabilitation.

Around the 1950s, physical therapy extended beyond hospital walls to clinic based practices. Most physical therapists still remained in hospitals up until the 1960s though. That is until the practice of physical therapy spread to schools, college/universities, rehabilitation centers, outpatient centers, and medical centers. In 1974, physical therapy specialization became center stage in the field and in the 1980s, the blast of technology and computers carved the path for further advancements in the field of physical therapy. These include therapeutic cold laser and Isokinetics just to name a few. Finally, the 1990s conveyed a lot of attention towards manual therapy in accordance with formal residency courses becoming more frequent. The popularity of this practice has developed into something that can alleviate pain sufferers’ distress. There are millions of people suffering from pain in the United States. Thankfully, physical therapy is now able to effectively treat people as a result of its evolution.

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