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The origins of physical therapy

Physical Therapy

Where it all began.. Physical Therapy as a Women’s profession. 

Physical Therapy dates back to 460 B.C. where Hippocrates introduced the idea of pain management through manual therapy.  However, it wasn’t until WW1 and the Polio Epidemic where Physical Therapy began to gain popularity.  This was due to the high number of injured soldiers and others who benefitted from Physical Therapy.  The individuals who were helping with these diseases and conditions were called reconstruction aides, or what we know today as Physical Therapists.  Today we know physical therapy as both a male and female profession.  However, when this field began, treatments were solely performed by women. 

These women were saving lives and helped in any way they could while they were being controlled by expectations that men had for them.  The aides wanted to wear bloomers instead of skirts as skirts got in the way of treatment.  However, men insisted that they wear skirts, speaking volumes of that time.  

Prior to WW1 Physical Therapy treatments were not taken seriously and were not trusted.  Post-war and after seeing the great results the soldiers experienced from the hard work done by the women on the battlefield, the treatments began to gain credibility.  


When Physical Therapy was Recognized 

In 1921, post WW1, the first association surrounding Physical Therapy as a profession was introduced. The American Women's Physical Therapeutic Association was introduced and consisted of 274 charter members, all female.  The work of these women was completed in either a tent or a hospital (up until 1950, these were the only places that Physical Therapy was performed).  In 1922 the group expanded their chapter and changed their name to the American Physiotherapy Association (APA), welcoming men to join.  By the end of WW2 the profession grew even bigger and the APA grew to about 8,000 members in just 20 years!  This was just the beginning of a field that would soon blossom into the popular, effective field of Physical Therapy that we know today.


Where is Physical Therapy now?

To be a Physical Therapist a doctoral degree was not always necessary.  Many years ago you could practice Physical Therapy with a bachelor’s degree. With our medical knowledge increasing, so has the level of education for Physical Therapists. Today, in order to practice you need a doctoral degree.  

What started out as a profession to help with diseases and specialized conditions has now changed to a field of injury prevention and rehabilitation.  If you were to go to a Physical Therapist today, you can find them at schools, clinics, hospitals, home therapy agencies, nursing homes, and more. The overall goal for a Physical Therapist is to improve movement, reduce pain, and get you to a stage where you can comfortably go about your life.

There has been great advancements in equipment such as the anti-gravity treadmill, which reduces your body weight and recovery time and the Solo Step, an overhead track, and harness system where you can’t fall.  This equipment has generated great results, making patients healthier, stronger, and more confident.  Currently, women still make up the majority of the field at 64% female, which is a remembrance of where the field started. 



Reddy Care Great Neck (Great Neck Physical Therapy): 516-829-0030
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Reddy Care Physical and Occupational Therapy Reddy Care Physical & Occupational Therapy Reddy Care Physical & Occupational Therapy is an outstanding specialty service providing exceptional care and state-of-the-art treatments for the residents of Farmingdale and Great Neck, New York. The combination of innovative exercise programs, manual therapy, and technology together with the expertise of every member of the team enables Reddy Care Physical & Occupational Therapy to provide services that ensure superior clinical outcomes and consistently high patient satisfaction.

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