The Evolution of Physiotherapy: From Ancient Techniques to Modern Rehabilitation
Just like advances in technologies, there has been change in the Physiotherapy approach towards patients

Physiotherapy has undergone a lot of changes over the years. Take a look at the role of physiotherapy then and now.

Physical Therapy is a branch of health-care that focuses on diagnosing and treating injuries, chronic and acute conditions, that impact physical function. A Physical therapist thus helps you promote, maintain, or restore your health through diagnosis, management, prognosis, patient education, physical intervention, and rehabilitation. The first documented practice of physiotherapy dates to 460 BC, when Hippocrates introduced the idea of manual manipulation for pain relief. However, Physiotherapy as a distinguished field came in to existence during the World War I, when it was widely performed to cure the injured soldiers. It was referred to as 'Rehabilitation Therapy' then. Ever since Physiotherapy has evolved into a complex portfolio of therapies with wide range of specialties, including neurology, pediatrics, sports rehabilitation, Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation and more.

The goals of physical therapy aim largely at reduction of pain, increase in range of motion, increase in endurance and strength, restored independence, decrease in stress and improved quality of life.

Changes in technologies

Electrotherapy has always been a great adjunct to exercise therapy in Physiotherapy. From conventional electric modalities, which are still in use such as Ultrasound therapy, Inter-ferential Therapy, Trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation etc., electrotherapy has now evolved with much advanced modalities like ECST ((extracorporeal Shock wave therapy), LASER, TECAR Therapy ( Transferencia Electrica Capacitiva Resistiva) etc. Technologies like Gait Lab which are used for gait analysis have helped therapist in faster, easier diagnosis and treatment plan. Hydrotherapy units like underwater treadmills are used by many physiotherapy units today compared to a decade back.

Therapeutic skills like kinesiology, taping and manual therapy are widely used today.

Changes in Approach

Just like advances in technologies, there has been change in the Physiotherapy approach towards patients. There is emphasis on preventive care, early intervention, and evidence-based practice. Physiotherapy units now use a more evidence- based practice, with importance given to patient participation in goal setting. More tangible tools such as Detailed assessment, Patient reported experience measures, which are patients' perspective of their health status are used to modify the treatment plans. Physiotherapist role in Palliative care /End of life care is also slowly evolving.


Over the years, physiotherapy has gained recognition as a popular mode of treatment that is helping reduce the disability and dependency rate of patients. There is growing awareness about occupational hazards and importance of preventive physiotherapy in industries as well as in sports. The Role of physiotherapy continues to grow as the understanding of the importance of overall health and fitness to the individual continues to grow. However, there is still a need for its recognition in multidisciplinary health care structures.

With or without advance technologies, Physiotherapists will continue to deliver quality of life and be a pillar of health care systems, with their skills and expertise world-wide.

The article is authored by Dr Sheetal N. Rane, Head of Physiotherapy Department, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai.

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