Many people aren’t aware that Physiotherapy in Canada and world wide, as we know it today, has its roots in the World Wars.
The Canadian Physio profession was developed from a small group of British nurses who developed S.T.M, or the society of trained masseuses.
The first World War lead a number of these nurses to develop a systematic method to help improve the physical function of injured soldiers. Physio’s were mainly women and were often known as masseuses, reconstruction aids, or remedial gymnasts.
The two world wars and the large number of soldiers and civilians with significant injuries drove drove a need for active rehabilitation. It was important for the individual, but also the Canadian economy to assist the injured in recovery to help them transition back into the work force. Enid Graham was a major contributor to the development of Canadian Physiotherapy.
During the Second World War, the terms Physiotherapist and Physiotherapy started to be used in Canada. These early professionals treated injured soldiers with range of motion exercises, hydrotherapy, massage and therapeutic exercise. All of these techniques are still a large component of how Physiotherapists help their patients reach their goals.
The profession of physiotherapy has continued to evolve since this time, but its roots remain the same. In whatever capacity a physiotherapist works, the main goal is to help a person function better or maintain function. We still benefit from what was learned and shared by these early professionals during the world wars. It is our hope that the root goal of all Physiotherapists, in all settings continue to be altruistic in in patient and out patient settings.