Physical Therapy (PT) was first practiced in Great Britain
in 1894, by a group of four nurses. Physical therapy was performed mostly on
people who had been injured in WWI. The nurses became known as
“reconstruction aides” and continue to be trained with an increase in
physical education and massage therapy.
Other countries soon after adapted the form of “rehabilitation
therapy” and PT began to grow. One of the first schools in the United
Stated to offer a physical therapy program was in 1914 at Reed
College in Portland, Oregon.
In 1921 Mary McMillian founded the first known
association for physical therapy and named it the American Women’s Physical
Therapy Association. Mary McMillian became known as the “Mother of Physical
Therapy” due to her significant contributions to the profession. In the
1930’s men were admitted and the first Code of Ethics was introduced.
PT became more
widely excepted as the demand increased due to the nation wide polio epidemic
during the 1940’s and 1950’s. During this period the association was renamed to
the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and policies and sections were
created to promote and develop specific areas of PT. PT also began to be more utilized in settings
other than hospitals. Public schools, universities, skilled nursing facilities,
medical centers and private owned rehabilitation centers became more popular as
the years passed.
Today due to the rapid increase in current medicine,
PT continues to grown and help patients daily. New treatments are being
discovered and utilized on a regular basis. Physical therapy can be provided to
help with a number of diseases and injuries ranging from common back pain to a
severe stroke patient.
Physical therapists and physicians work together to treat children at a New England poliomyelitis clinic in 1916.
Laci DiLibero, PTA, CKTP
TherapyWorks Physical Therapy Department Manager