In antiquity, between 4,000 BC and 395 AD there was a strong concern with people who presented the so-called "uncomfortable differences", this term was used to cover what was then considered to be "disease." There was a concern to eliminate those "uncomfortable differences" through resources, techniques, tools and procedures. Physical agents were already used to reduce those "differences." Doctors in antiquity knew physical agents and employed them in therapy. Already they used electrotherapy in the form of shocks with an electric fish in the treatment of certain diseases. The habit of using forms of movement as a therapeutic resource goes back several centuries before the Christian era. At that time it was believed that the use of gymnastics was solely in the hands of the priests and that it was used only for therapeutic purposes, that is, the movements of the human body, when studied, rationalised and planned were used in the treatment of already installed organic dysfunctions. In the year 2698 CE the Chinese emperor Hoong-Ti created a type of healing gymnastics that contained breathing exercises and exercises to avoid obstruction of Organs (Lindeman, 1970, p 177).
In Thrace and Greek medicine movement therapy was a part of medical treatment. Galen (130 to 199 AD) succeeded in correcting the deformed thorax of a boy until he reached normal conditions through a planned gymnasium of the trunk and lungs (LINDMAN, 1970, p. 178). What was intended was basically to cure individuals who were carrying some disease or deformity.
In the Middle Ages "uncomfortable differences" were considered as something to be exorcised. It was a period of interruption of studies in the area of health. The interruption of these studies seems to have had two main aspects: the human body was considered something inferior and the upper layers of the nobility and the clergy began to awaken the interest to put an activity Physics directed towards a given goal which was the increase of physical power.
The ecclesiastical orders were enemies of the body. The hospitals of the Middle Ages had ecclesiastical character, were located next to the monasteries and their rooms of patients were next to the chapels, having altars in the room of the patients, not having suitable place for the accomplishment of exercises (Lindeman, 1970, P. 178). In the Renaissance, some concern for the healthy body returns. Humanism and the arts developed and allowed, in parallel to the resumption of studies on body care and worship of the "physical." Mercurialis presented principles defined for the medical gymnastics that comprised: 1-) exercises to conserve an existing healthy state; 2-) regularity in the exercise; 3-) exercises for sick individuals whose state can be exacerbated; 4-) special individual exercises for convalescent; 5-) exercises for people with sedentary occupations. (Wheller, 1971, p.9).
At that time there was a concern with the treatment and care of the injured organism and also with the maintenance of normal conditions already existing in healthy organisms. At the end of the rebirth, the interest for body health begins to specialise.In the transition phase between the rebirth and the industrialisation phase, the use of physical resources has an influence in the Western world. Don Francisco Y Ondeano Amorós (1779-1849), who was not a physician, divided the gymnasium into four points, and one of them was kinesiotherapy for the maintenance of strong health, treatment of illnesses, re-education of convalescents and correction of deformities. (Lindeman, 1970, p.179).
"G. Stebbin and B. Mesendiac "see as purpose of their system of injury prevention and its correction, (Mesendiac system gives importance to the work of muscular support through physiotherapy) .Ling, a Swedish gym teacher and corrective massages had his work Disseminated through disciples such as Rothstein, a Prussian officer who used preventive and corrective exercises in the care of the body in Germany.
At the time of industrialisation, the interest in "uncomfortable differences" returns. The new machined system, optimised the growing industrial production brought overwork, where the oppressed population was subjected to exhaustive and excessive working hours, food and sanitary conditions were precarious causing new diseases such as epidemics of cholera, pulmonary tuberculosis, alcoholism , And occupational accidents.
The preoccupation of the ruling classes thus arises in order not to lose or diminish their source of wealth and well-being generated by the work force of the lower classes. Physical exercise and other ways of acting characterize Physiotherapy in the twentieth century. Klapp developed the cat position for the treatment of lateral deviations of the spinal column (scoliosis) and Kohlransch (1920) placed kinesiotherapy on all relaxing and distending methods and developed the treatment of internal and gynecological diseases.
During the war, kinesiotherapy schools emerge to treat or rehabilitate the injured or mutilated who needed to regain a minimum of conditions to return to an integrated and productive social activity. Physiotherapy becomes part of the so-called "Health Area" and was Evolving in the course of history, had its resources and ways of acting almost exclusively for the care of the sick individual, to rehabilitate or recover the good conditions that the body lost. The forms of physiotherapy work already evidence: Therapeutic performance through movement (Kinesiotherapy); Through electricity (electrotherapy); Through heat (thermotherapy), cold (cryotherapy), massage (massage therapy).
Physiotherapy in Australia
In England in 1894, four prominent nurses formed the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, which became the professional body and trade union for physiotherapists in the United Kingdom. Several schools of physiotherapy opened up around the world in the following decade in New Zealand and America.
The Australian Massage Association was established in Australia in 1906 as a voice for the growing numbers of massage and physical therapists, many of them migrants from Britain. During World War I these therapists provided tactile therapies and ad hoc rehabilitation programs which were noted to be a valuable treatment tool for promoting recovery of injured soldiers.
World War II and the 1950’s polio epidemic provided further opportunities for therapists to provide rehabilitation. The earliest official recognition of the profession was the Physiotherapists Act of 1950 which established the Physiotherapists Registration Board who took responsibility for educating and examining physiotherapists. The Western Australia School of Physiotherapy was set up in 1951 offering the first official program in physiotherapy studies – a Diploma of physiotherapy. This evolved to university degree qualifications around the country in the mid 1960’s.
Since then, the physiotherapy bachelor degree has changed considerably and along with it the profession as a whole. Physiotherapy in Australia has become both a strong academic and clinical discipline and several Australian universities have world renowned research programs whose outcomes are driving teaching and learning to ensure graduates are skilled in contemporary evidence-based clinical practices.
The scope of physiotherapy has also broadened, and the Australian Physiotherapy Association now boasts over a dozen different special interest groups for members, reflecting the diversity of clinical practice. These include acupuncture and dry needling, animal, aquatic, business, continence and women’s health, cardiorespiratory, gerontology, leadership and management, musculoskeletal, neurology, pediatric, occupational health and sports.
The current status of the profession within Australia and around the world is largely due to the progress that has been achieved since the turn of last century. Many skilled practitioners and policy makers have been part of this process and have helped to shape the profession into the respectable, healthful, helping discipline that it is today. The next chapter in the story of the profession remains unwritten, but the future looks bright.