Physiotherapy or physical therapy, is a branch of studies of the human body known as Physical Medicine. The main goals of physical therapy are to lessen disability, relieve pain, and prevent malfunction or deformity of the body. Physiotherapy is closely associated with several other theories or studies, such as occupational therapy, different rehabilitation treatments, and body conditioning methods. Although physiotherapy appeared as a separate, medical field only in the beginning of the last century, the concept itself can be traced back far back to ancient civilizations.

Different aspects of modern physical therapy have been found in the writings of ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, and Egyptians. It seems that throughout history there has been a necessity for this practice. The actual field of physiotherapy was developed around WW I, when an epidemic of poliomyelitis called for specific treatment of the body. Since then, physical therapy was used for war victims of both WWI and WWII, as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. Today, physiotherapy is prescribed for individuals with orthopedic, neurological, vascular, muscularskeletal and respiratory disorders. Physical therapists use a wide variety of treatments to manipulate or stimulate specific muscles to achieve their maximal potential.

Before a physiotherapist actually begins the treatment of a patient, he/she must first have a complete physical examination consisting of electric, perceptual, sensory, and psychological testing, as well as the measurement of the range of motion of the joints. Only after this examination has been done can a physical therapist proceed to decide which type of treatment to administer to the patient. The most common types of physical therapy treatments include manual therapy, electrotherapy, therapeutic exercise, and heat/hydrotherapy. Manual therapy consists of such techniques as massage, different types of stretching, neuromuscular facilitation, as well as manual resistance training. Electrotherapy uses ultrasound, lasers, infrared and ultraviolet radiation, cryotherapy, and pure electricity to stimulate specific muscles. Therapeutic exercises such as isometric/isotonic strengthening, cardiovascular training, and assisted mobilization are used to strengthen and re-develop muscle tone. Heat/hydrotherapy uses cold or hot water, paraffin wax, and ice packs to stimulate circulation, relax muscle spasms, and eliminate pain. Occupational therapy, although quite similar to physiotherapy, is also used as a treatment. However, unlike physiotherapy, occupational therapy focuses on learning independence with a disability. Besides the treatments listed above, there are many other alternative methods to physical therapy that are now being incorporated into rehabilitation techniques.

As the field of physiotherapy grows, body conditioning methods are being used as treatments. Such methods would include Pilates, the Feldenkrais Method, the Alexander Technique, Craniosacral Therapy, Gyrotonics, and Yoga. These methods focus on strength, alignment, and flexibility of the body.

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