physiotherapy Vancouver

Ancient Greece to Vancouver: Origin and Evolution of Physiotherapy 

Whether you are an undergrad considering a career in physiotherapy or a curious history medicine healthcare nerd or a client wondering how this wonderful profession came about, this one is for you.

How did Physiotherapy originate and where? To answer this question, we will have to dial it back. How many years, you ask? How about a few centuries?

Foundation for the physiotherapy profession can be traced back to the year 460 BC when Greek physicians like Hippocrates and Galen left an indelible mark on the healthcare sciences. Hippocrates was known to have introduced manual therapy, massage therapy and hydrotherapy to treat his patients.

In an attempt to regulate the practice, the Society of Trained Masseurs (STM) was formed in 1894 in Great Britain. For the first time, a biomechanical model of physical rehabilitation was proposed to view the body as a machine with different parts performing their duties accordingly. The focus at this time was only on massage therapy.

It was around this time that Orthopedics became an important branch within the medical field and along with it carried the role of physiotherapy to further advancement. Orthopedic surgeons operated on persons with disability. Following the surgery, they recruited women with specialized training in physical training and remedial practice.

In 1916, Polio became an endemic. Nurses began to use principles of movement and exercise extensively to treat patients.

The biggest surge in demand for physical training and rehabilitation came with the first World War, in 1918. Injured soldiers in need of rehabilitation and recovery were offered treatment by ‘Reconstruction Aids’- the very first physiotherapists. This brought about the institutionalization of the profession and the first Physical Treatment College was set up in Washington.

The first research paper in Physiotherapy was published in March 1921 in the United States.

The role of physiotherapy grew and with it, the number of practitioners. In 1948 physiotherapists from all over the world recognized the need for an international Organization to provide guidance and regulatory standards.

The World Confederation for Physical Therapists (WCPT) was born in 1951. It currently has 127 member organizations overlooking more than 600,000 physiotherapists worldwide.

History of Physiotherapy in Canada

  • The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) was established in 1920 and remains a founding member of the WCPT.
  • The pioneers of the profession were women who dedicated their lives to the service of injured soldiers returning from World War I. In the midst of pain and suffering, the profession has brought about much-needed hope and relief, as it continues to do today.
  • Physiotherapy is a well-respected profession as many Canadians who have benefitted from it will gladly endorse it.
  • The Canadian Physiotherapy Association celebrated its centenary anniversary in 2020!

History of Physiotherapy in Vancouver, British Columbia.

  • The Association of Physical Therapists and Massage Practitioners of British Columbia (APMP) was established in 1948 with two types of memberships offered: Chartered Physical Therapists- requiring supervision by a physician and Registered Physical Therapists– independent practice.
  • The College of Physical Therapists of British Columbia was formed in 1994, in Vancouver, and is the regulatory body for our profession even today. Physiotherapists no longer work under the supervision of a physician; we have evolved into autonomous practice.
  • Revisiting the history of a profession is vital to gaining perspective. As you can tell by now, physiotherapy was a profession that began with the goal of restoring movement, relieving pain and changing lives.
  • Fast forward to today, in and around Vancouver, there are several factors that influence the quality of service provided within a physiotherapy session, including but not limited to, pricing, insurance coverage, and the experience of the therapist. Let’s look at each of these factors individually.


Within the last decade, pricing has increased to keep up with the economy, I.e., from about $50 per session in 2015 to about $90 on average today.


With almost a 100% increase in price, you would think insurance coverage would increase too. Sadly, that’s not the case, putting the onus on the client to pay the remaining amount. It is only reasonable that with affordability concerns, you the client, expect fewer sessions and quicker progress.

Physiotherapist’s quality of care

  • Given the circumstances, physiotherapists are forced to demonstrate increased productivity, I.e. diagnose, and treat within a said number of sessions. In an attempt to improve productivity, some clinicians resort to modality-based treatments, I.e., leave you with a heat pack or attached to machines. This goes against the core philosophy of our profession and drastically affects the quality of care.
  • A good physiotherapist is one who is constantly assessing, treating, providing feedback and demonstrating movement. These are the components of evidence-based care.
  • In this post-Covid era, it has become all too easy to lose sight of why we as a profession exist. It has become all too easy to put your, the client’s, health and well-being at the back seat and instead prioritize monetary gain.
  • At Revere, we pride ourselves on our mindfulness of this fact. We pride ourselves on our values and our promise to you, our clients. At Revere, we are all about Evidence-based practice and 100% patient satisfaction.

What we do differently:

  • Team Physiotherapy Sessions: If you don’t know what physiotherapist to choose, pick any! If you aren’t improving to your satisfaction, we can send another physiotherapist (on top of your current one) in during your next session with your consent for the same price, just so we have another pair of eyes to assess your movements. This will allow our team to collaborate at its finest and ensure you get the help you deserve. Don’t be afraid to ask! Our whole team of physiotherapists is only focused on getting you better and a team session is the best way to learn for everyone involved.
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed: Sometimes, you may not mesh with your therapist or our team. That is quite alright! Our policy is if we can’t help you on some level, then we will not take your money. This allows all of our team to be accountable and to be able to provide the best service possible.

Book an appointment with our expert physiotherapists who will guide your recovery process.

In the comments below tell us about your experience with physiotherapy in the lower mainland. We would love to hear your feedback to improve our services.

If you are a student considering a career in physiotherapy reach out to us at with questions and/or concerns and we are more than happy to serve as mentors. Share this post with your friends who are in the same boat.

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