Physiotherapy: Explanation, History, and Specialties

Physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is focused on maximizing quality of life and movement. When function is diminished by age, disease, injury, or the environment, this field can help. Often, physiotherapy helps restore and develop the movements that make life livable for humans. Physical therapists or physiotherapists are the key factor in the healing process. They work with patients, their families, and other professionals to get the best results for the patient. Usually the therapist makes a diagnosis based on the history of an individual and a physical exam. Also, the therapists in this field build up movement through exercises, education, and manual therapy. Lastly, the history of this type of therapy is key in understanding the professionals in it and the therapy itself.

Early physicians, such as Hippocrates, are thought to be the first to use physiotherapy. They used massages and hydrotherapy to treat some of their patients. However, the first documented use of this therapy was by Per Henrik Ling, the man who founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (or RCIG). The RCIG was aimed at providing massage and exercise above all else. In 1894 a group of nurses founded the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and in 1913 a school for this therapy was founded in New Zealand. It only continued to spread from there. In the U.S., a specialization for physiotherapy was finally created in 1974 and since has continued to advance and improve. Now a day, there are even multiple specialty areas within this therapy.

Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation are within a section called Cardiopulmonary. Geriatric physical therapy is the second field, focusing on aging and usually older adults. Neurological physiology targets individuals with neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Then there is orthopedic therapy which treats patients with musculoskeletal system injuries. Pediatric therapy almost always focuses on infants, children, and adolescents. The professionals in this section treat a wide variety of issues, including injuries, disorders, and diseases. Finally there is the type of physiotherapy know as integumentary. Physiotherapists in the field solve issues with skin and related organs, such as burns or wounds. While there are some other fields within this type of therapy, these are the six most recognized because together they encompass problems with the entire human body.