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Physical Therapists

History

The practice of physical therapy has developed as our knowledge of medicine and our understanding of the functions of the human body have grown. During the first part of the 20th century, there were tremendous strides in medical practice in general. The wartime experiences of medical teams who had to rehabilitate seriously injured soldiers contributed to the medical use and acceptance of physical therapy practices. The polio epidemic in the 1940s, which left many victims paralyzed, also led to the demand for improved physical therapy.

A professional association was organized in 1921, and physical therapy began to achieve professional stature. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) now serves a membership of more than 93,000 physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and students.

Today the use of physical therapy has expanded beyond hospitals, where it has been traditionally practiced. Physical therapists now are working in private practices, nursing homes, sports facilities, home health agencies, public and private schools, academic institutions, hospices, and in industrial physical therapy programs, a reflection of their versatility of skills and the public's need for comprehensive health care.

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