Roots of American PT


Compared to many other medical professions, Physical Therapy is a fairly new field and is still rapidly developing. New strides are being made everyday to improve the rehabilitation of those that have suffered injury. For centuries, tactics such as massage and hydrotherapy had been used, but nothing that directly targeted specific problems. During the 19th century, Europe was far ahead of the United States when it came the treatment of such physical issues. North America didn’t even consider it a viable field of study until the 20th century. Many trained women had been administering massage, remedial exercise and physical education for polio victims and other debilitating diseases, but had not actually administered any sort of training or official techniques. Reed College offered degrees for ‘reconstruction aids’ in 1914, but PT was not actually institutionalized until 1918 the founding of The Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction on August 22, 1917.

One of the first steps towards modern PT in the United States was taken by General William C. Gorgas shortly after President Wilson got congressional approval to declare war on Germany. Gorgas was the 22nd Surgeon General of the United States and he made the decision to send scholars to study European Rehabilitation programs and bring the knowledge back to establish a program for US soldiers returning from war. Their treatments were basic, but the Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction was founded on August 22nd, 1917. In 1918, Mary McMillan was appointed head re-constructionist at Walter Reed General Hospital. She is widely considered to be the first Physical Therapist in the US.

But, despite how successful PT was during the war, many did not believe in the practice. When the war ended and the soldiers had been treated, many thought Physical Therapists would become unimportant. Ignoring the skepticism, some were privately employed and the Army established  PT Training Program in 1922. The program helped cover the needs when WWII broke out and was incredibly valuable for treating the wounded.

Physical Therapy has continued to grow and develop as its own field since then. Peak Fitness is proud to continue the legacy and history of our work. The physical therapists at Peak Fitness & Physical Therapy offer the most comprehensive and specialized orthopedic and rehabilitation services in the Chattanooga area. Whether you have had surgery, suffer from chronic pain, illness or injury, or have experienced a recent injury, our team of experts will design a custom treatment plan to fit your specific needs, and get you back to feeling your best again. Don’t let an injury hold you back.