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The history and evolution of physiotherapy

23 Apr Posted in Family

Physiotherapy is currently one of the most popular health care services in the world, but it is definitely not a new one. This form of therapy has been around for thousands of years and it has one of the most interesting evolutions, even if it does not rely on complicated medical equipment. There are hundreds of physiotherapy clinics Ottawa that patients know and trust, sometimes even more than conventional medicine, but few people are familiar with the history of this practice and how it ended up what it is today. Here are a few relevant factors about physical therapy and now its principles evolved throughout millennia.

The roots of physical therapy can be traced back to the 5th century BC, when Hippocrates, the father of medicine, suggested certain treatments and practices that are still in use today. He promoted the importance of gentle massage and exercises in treating wounds and conditions such as gout. Gentle manual massage is at the core of physiotherapeutic practices and professionals utilize it today to help muscle and joint recovery. A huge lead forward was made in the 1800, following the development of orthopedic, which is another form of musculo-skeletal recovery. Sweden is an interesting test case: in the 19th century, they used physio to help gymnasts recover after injuries. They were the first country to register this health care practice and other states did the same in the following years. Physio was used concomitantly in the United States; not for gymnasts, but for people with disabilities and physical handicaps, who noticed pain relief after having massage. During the polio outbreak, which marked the beginning of the 20th century, physical therapy (found then under the name of “reconstructive aid”) had an important role in helping survivors recover.


An historical landmark was founded in 1921 in the United States, when the first research on the topic of physiotherapy was published in a specialized journal. Previous to that, schools and clinics has been established throughout the U.S., in order to help those wounded in WWI. Even after the war ended and the polio outbreak had been stopped, physiotherapy kept thriving, because its benefits had become common knowledge. In time, it became independent from hospital and many certified practitioners established their own private clinics, suggesting an alternative from invasive medical solutions and encouraging a healthy, pro-active approach, focused on the body’s natural power to heal itself and recover through massage and pain management.

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