The Evolution of Physiotherapy in Healthcare

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Physiotherapy is a medical practice focused on re-establishing movement, physical strength and functionality in people who have been affected by illness or injury. It is a holistic approach that includes promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation.

We use a socio-historical framework to analyse the recognition of interactional expertise regulated by the state that enabled bath therapists, massage therapists and physiotherapy nurses to transform an occupation into a profession.


Physiotherapy or physical therapy is a health care profession concerned with human movement and maximising the human body’s potential. It is an evidence-based, patient-centred, and autonomous practice that applies knowledge from the rehabilitation sciences, anatomy, kinesiology and physiology to assess, diagnose, treat and manage pain, injuries and movement dysfunctions. Physiotherapists work collaboratively with physicians and healthcare teams to help patients regain mobility, overcome pain and increase quality of life.

The discipline of physiotherapy arose from nursing occupational categories such as bath therapists and massage therapists, who became independent professionals in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1940s, research catalysed a growth in physiotherapy and treatment through exercise, massage and traction. During the 1950s, manipulation of the spine and extremity joints began to be used, and physiotherapists started to move beyond hospital based practice to private clinics, schools, geriatric settings and rehabilitation centres.

Today, physiotherapists (or physical therapists) focus on the treatment and management of a wide range of conditions and diseases. These include neuromuscular (brain and nervous system), musculoskeletal (soft tissue, bones and joints) and cardiovascular and respiratory (heart and lungs). Cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal conditions can be caused by accidents or surgery, diseases such as cancer, palliative care or lymphedema, or aging, such as osteoporosis. They also work with patients with chronic illnesses, such as arthritis or dementia. Powerhouse Physiotherapy assists individuals in regaining mobility, alleviating pain, and enhancing overall health through personalized exercise regimens, lifestyle adjustments, and other coping strategies tailored to their condition. If you believe you could benefit from treatment by a their physiotherapist, simply visit their website.

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Physiotherapy is used to treat many diseases, conditions and injuries. This is done through a variety of techniques that are designed to relieve pain and improve movement, including soft tissue mobilization (which involves stretching or kneading muscle, tendons, ligaments and fascia in order to reduce tension, improve flexibility, break up scar tissue, enhance blood flow and promote healing) and joint manipulation (when the articular surfaces of joints are moved to increase mobility and decrease pain).

Using other manual therapy techniques, such as massage, exercise, electrical stimulation and temperature therapies, relaxation techniques, patient education and breathing exercises, physiotherapists can help patients manage pain and increase their overall movement potential. Physiotherapy is also used to prevent and treat chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma and cystic fibrosis).

Physiotherapists are often employed by private physiotherapy clinics, hospitals, government healthcare agencies, community health centres, private practice groups, rehabilitation facilities, private corporations and in sport organizations. In addition, physiotherapists are involved in the development and implementation of Community Based Rehabilitation programmes, which are becoming increasingly common as an international trend in global health. As part of their role in Community Based Rehabilitation, physiotherapists are often called upon to provide support and services to patients who cannot or will not seek traditional healthcare from doctors or other medical professionals, such as those with acute illnesses or injuries that have left them with impaired functioning.


Physiotherapy (or physical therapy) is a health care profession concerned with human movement and maximising physical potential within the spheres of promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation. It is a patient-centred practice anchored in movement sciences, with clinical judgement and informed interpretation at its core.

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PT practitioners use professional judgement and techniques based on advanced education, science and research to work with patients on their path to achieving health goals such as managing pain and other chronic diseases like arthritis and diabetes or recovering from a sports injury or major health crisis (e.g. heart attack, stroke or traumatic brain injury).

Athletes also seek physiotherapy treatment to prevent injuries and improve their performance in sports and fitness pursuits. Treatment modalities include joint manipulation and mobilization, soft tissue techniques such as massage and stretching, electrotherapy, and therapeutic exercise including strength training.

Today, physiotherapists work in a range of settings such as hospitals, private practice rooms, home visits to patients in their homes or aged care facilities and community clinics. They also have the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams with other health and social care professionals. Many physiotherapists are also involved in research, education and service management. Physiotherapists treat a wide variety of conditions including back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, respiratory disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


Physiotherapists use an approach that is holistic, human-centred, and problem-solving. They promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well-being through the application of manual therapy techniques and therapeutic exercise. Physiotherapy treats patients with conditions associated with the neuromusculoskeletal system (including the brain and nerves), the cardiovascular system (including the heart and lungs) and the respiratory systems.

Participants consistently identified the rapidly evolving technology landscape as a significant threat to PT practice. In particular, they were concerned that the increasing accessibility of information could lead to a loss of professional expertise and credibility, particularly given the ease with which some people claim to be ‘experts’ in many fields.

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They were also concerned that the increased prevalence of wearable sensors and ‘smart’ devices could lead to a situation where physiotherapists are no longer required to interpret and apply their clinical knowledge and judgement. Moreover, the participants were concerned that this technological shift could result in a reduction of their patient contact time.

Physiotherapy has the potential to provide new opportunities that leverage its workforce and drive reform, advance health, strengthen care and increase value. The CSP has developed a policy roadmap to guide this, which was launched at FOCUS2022. This roadmap outlines a clear pathway for physiotherapy-led models of care that will support the broader health agenda and address the challenges that we face.


Clinic: Powerhouse Physiotherapy
Address: 196 Mouat St, Lyneham ACT 2602
Phone: (02) 6262 5740