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physical therapy fun facts

Physical Therapy Fun Facts

by Lori Diamos8 Comments

October is National Physical Therapy Month.

In honor of physical therapy month here are some physical therapy fun facts that you may not have been aware of.

Did you know?:

Physical therapy as a profession actually originated during World War I in response to the need created when our soldiers were injured in war.

The first physical therapists during World War I were actually called “reconstruction aides”.

Poliomyelitis was rampant during the 1920’s and 30’s and physical therapists became one of the predominant groups treating these patients bringing the profession more to the forefront. In response to this physical therapists decided to form a professional organization and it was called the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association.

The field of physical therapy was initially a female dominant profession and the first president of the American Women’s Physical Therapy Association was Mary McMillan.

When World War II occurred, due to the advances in science and technology more injured soldiers were surviving and their various musculoskeletal injuries were treated by physical therapists. As the 1930s ended the profession changed its name from the American Women’s Physical Therapy Association to the American Physiotherapy Association.

In the late 1940’s  the professional organization that represented physical therapists once again changed its name to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) which is still our representing body  to this day.

As healthcare continued to progress and advance physical therapy eventually became recognized as a profession that went beyond treating injured soldiers and today physical therapists have specializations in various things from neurology, sports medicine, cardiopulmonary, orthopedics, pediatrics, women’s health, vestibular, and geriatrics just to name a few.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s as the demand for physical therapy increased and schools were unable to turn out physical therapists fast enough, the physical therapy assistant role was born.  Therapists had been utilizing aides but needed help from somebody with a more technical background in the ways of physical therapy and thus the profession advanced. A physical therapy assistant helps the physical therapist in the treatment of patients but does not perform evaluation techniques.

When physical therapy originally became recognized as a profession one required a bachelor’s degree to practice. In the 1990s programs transitioned to a Master’s of Science degree and now in the 21st century the profession has advanced again and is now at a doctoral level.  To become a physical therapy assistant, an associates degree is required.

According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy education there are currently 228 accredited physical therapy programs and 333 accredited physical therapy assistant programs.

Today the profession has become integrated with both men and women providing physical therapy services to meet your musculoskeletal and movement needs with the aim of minimizing dysfunction and impairment.

Do you have any other fun facts about physical therapy?  If so, take a moment to share them below.  If you have had physical therapy and it had a positive impact on you take a second to honor your therapist below by sharing your unique experience in celebration of physical therapy month and the real lives that are changed or helped by physical therapy everyday.

If you would like more in depth information about the history of physical therapy click on the links below to learn more and thanks to these sites for providing the basis of our fun facts!

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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  1. Grace Turner

    The origin of this profession in World War 1 is really cool. It is really neat that it started out as a female dominant profession. In today’s world it seems like most people think it’s a man’s job. How did this trend change? When did it become a more male dominant profession? This article was really fun and informative thank you!

  2. Pancho Cham

    Now especially recently, I’ve begun to realize that physical therapy is everywhere, from private practice, hospitals, and even retirement homes. I had no idea that it was such an old practice, though, going back to the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s crazy that it’s been in use for such a long time, and I’m glad that it’s come so far! Really great, interesting information!

  3. Jeff Curtis

    Thanks for the fun facts on physical therapy! That is super interesting that physical therapy originated during World War 1. It is cool that something like that can turn into a profession now in our days. Thanks for cool information! I am glad we have physical therapists now.

  4. Jason Barton

    I’m doing a project for PT or PTA.
    Career Day is what’s it’s called.
    I picked PT.
    These are my questions,
    1. What is the average salary for a PT?
    2.After High school what jobs will prepare you for becoming a PT?
    3.What do PT do daily??
    4.How many years of college do you need to become a PT??????
    Those are my questions, if you can reply before the month is over that would be great!!!!
    If not that’s ok, my is also a PT..

  5. Athletico

    Thanks for reaching out Jason! We are glad you picked PT for your Career Day project. Please send an email with your questions to and we will do our best to provide you with answers.

  6. Stefan Bradley

    I had no idea that physical therapy was originally performed during World War I. My son needs to go into physical therapy for his injured knee, and he wanted to know long physical therapists have been around. I’ll let him know that physical therapy has been practiced for an extremely long time.

  7. Alice Carroll

    Wow, it’s interesting to know that physical therapists are more commonly women. My daughter is quite picky when it comes to medical procedures because she is quite conscious when it comes to physical contact. I think a female physical therapy treatment specialist would make her feel comfortable as she recovers from a recent injury from playing volleyball.

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