May Is National Physiotherapy Month!

May 1st, 2014 / By Heather Williams


May is National Physiotherapy Month.  This year Physiotherapists, Physiotherapist Assistants and Physiotherapy clients will be celebrating almost 100 years of Physiotherapy in Canada.  Since World War I, Physiotherapy professionals have been working hard to help meet the health needs of Canadians, particularly those with injuries or disabilities. In 1917 the first formal six-month Physiotherapy training program was launched at the University of Toronto as a response to the needs of injured veterans returning from battle.

physiotherapist celebrating achievement of client

In Canada, physiotherapists, physiotherapist assistants, and physiotherapy clients are celebrating almost 100 years of physiotherapy.


By 1929, the need for extended training was clear, and a two year Diploma program was established at the University of Toronto.  In 1935 the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) was established.  At that time, the CPA established practice standards, and began actively promoting the role of Physiotherapy and its practitioners. In World War II, Physiotherapists, who were given the rank of officer in the military, were again called upon to meet the needs of wounded soldiers.

After World War II, polio epidemics became the major challenge facing society and the Physiotherapy profession.  Through the 1940’s and 50’s demand for Physiotherapy services grew as children with disabilities required greater assistance than the traditional fields of medicine and nursing could provide. By 1954 McGill University created the first Baccalaureate degrees in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy; these programs mark the clearest beginnings of evidence-based practice in the field of Physiotherapy. As the Polio epidemic dwindled into the 1960s, Physiotherapy began expanding into other specialized areas including Neurology, Burns and Cardio-respiratory areas of practice. With these advances, Physiotherapy also began distinguishing itself from the medical profession.

By 1970 the demand for physiotherapy across age groups and conditions were causing a serious strain in human resource.  In order to respond to these demands, the CPA approved the use of aide personnel to relieve human resource strains of a growing profession. The 1980s marked a decade of advancement in Physiotherapy. The emphasis on evidence-based practice continued to increase. In response to fitness and wellness trends, Physiotherapy increased the focus on disease prevention and health promotion.
By 1982 it became clear the efficiency of treatment and quality of client care had increased due to the use of aide personnel. As a result in 1987 the CPA advocated the use of support personnel under the supervision of a qualified Physiotherapist, and in 1989 aides were recognized within the industry as an asset to Physiotherapy. In response to these developments the Ontario government approved community College Physiotherapy Assistant training programs in 1993.

In the past two decades, the demands on Physiotherapy have continued to increase dramatically, as an aging Canadian population faces an increase in chronic disease and disability. Today, the three main areas of practice include Orthopedics, Neurology and Cardio-respiratory Physiotherapy.  However, due to the expanding influence of Physiotherapy, many specialized fields are growing such as Geriatrics, Women’s health and Sports medicine. As we enjoy physiotherapy month the CPA has launched a new website to honour the occasion and increase the presence of Physiotherapy in social media This push for public awareness is a logical move by the CPA as Canadians spend approximately $3 billion annually on Physiotherapy services and Physiotherapy is the 5th largest regulated occupation nationally with 20,000 registered Physiotherapists.

The CPA alone represents 12,000 individuals (Physiotherapists, Physiotherapy Assistants and students). Physiotherapy is a growing and evolving field with a rich history. Helping clients achieve mobility, wellness and independence has been at the forefront of Physiotherapy treatment for decades and continues to guide the profession as it leads rehabilitation into the future of modern medicine.

Happy National Physiotherapy Month!

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