What is Physiotherapy?

Therapeutic method that focuses on the Science of movement and use of energy conversion methods to help people to restore, maintain and maximize their physical strength, function, motion and overall well-being and Quality of life by addressing underlying physical issues.

History of Physiotherapy Training and Practice:

(Excerpts from the Messages in journals & Magazines written by the first Principal of School of Physiotherapy, Mrs.Theera Fernando)History of Physiotherapy Training and Practice

Physiotherapy has been in practice in Sri Lanka, from time immemorial with the therapeutic use of heat, oils, manipulations and mobilisation. Those have been in practice from ancient times though Physiotherapy service came into existence or was made available only at the General Hospital, Colombo (presently named National Hospital, Sri Lanka) since early twenties.

During the early twenties the electrotherapy section of GHC was run by an officer supervised by a Radiologist. There were a few Faradic and Galvanic stimulators and Infra-Red lamps with them.

Soon after the 2nd World War, during the late forties, in 1947, exactly  7 decades ago, teaching of physiotherapy in Sri Lanka started to the officers released from medical corps, were given the task of helping the surgeons to rehabilitate patients in three rooms at the Out Patient’s Department of the General Hospital, Colombo.

The School of Physiotherapy was housed in a building called the “Hermitage” near Old OPD, and later moved to the present premises, 119 E.W.Perera Mawatha, Colombo 10 in 1970.

In the United Kingdom, Royal Charter Incorporated Physiotherapy service was available in hospitals in England during the first decade of nineties. The first Sri Lankan Physiotherapist Mrs.Theera Fernando who underwent training in the United Kingdom returned in 1951.

During the early fifties British Physiotherapists came to Sri Lanka with the thoracic surgical teams. As the value of Physiotherapy service became established, recruits were called to assist British Physiotherapists and continue to work in the thoracic units, orthopaedic units and the Physiotherapy Department. In 1954, all those were recruited were sent for training to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand on Colombo-plan Scholarships.

Sri Lankan qualified doctors who had training in Physical medicine in the UK and USA returned to the island and the Departments of Physical Medicine were opened. Modern equipment replaced the old, the field of Physiotherapy started expanding and it was felt that the needs of the country could only be met by training Physiotherapists in Sri Lanka. Mrs.Theera Fernando pioneered systematic training of Physiotherapists to world standards. Her students serve a massive population all over the world.

The School of Physiotherapy at the General hospital, Colombo was inaugurated in January 1957 with the assistance of Colombo Plan and the W.H.O. from its inception. The “Brain child” or the founder member of the School of Physiotherapy Dr.J.E.F(Frank) Perera, who was the Physician in charge of the Department of Physical Medicine (General), of GHC and who was also the first Physician in charge of the School of Physiotherapy, recognised the needs to have a systematic training in Physiotherapy to meet our country’s demands and undertook the task of organising the first Course of its kind in Sri Lanka.

From the inception of the School, Professors and Lecturers of the Faculty of medicine, Consultants and Doctors of General hospital, Colombo, Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children and the Rehabilitation Hospital, Ragama played an active part in the teaching in basic sciences. They also helped Programmes and specialised clinical training as well as to conducted examinations during training and at finals.

The World Health Organisation and Colombo Plan gave aid in the form of teachers in Physiotherapy, books, equipment and offered Fellowships to train Sri Lankan Physiotherapists as teachers in Physiotherapy. The group selected initially was sent to London to follow comprehensive training course in Physiotherapy to obtain Diploma (Degree Courses started much later- in mid eighties in UK and USA). Three Physiotherapists who obtained Diploma in Teaching Physiotherapy, returned to Sri Lanka in 1962. Mrs. Theera Fernando was one of them, took over from WHO tutors in 1963 and since then school has been managed by Sri Lankan Physiotherapists.

There were always two batches of students in the School, also the number of all the students were limited to 40. Students were recruited from island-wide, one from each district, who has obtained highest aggregate scoring in their O/L & A/L together also with credits for English, Physics & Biology. The same (3 Year) Curriculum of teaching which was conducted in Schools of Physiotherapy in United Kingdom was done in Sri Lanka in 2 years with no seasonal holidays as in UK. Those who qualified as Physiotherapists from our School of Physiotherapy also with another 2 years of Clinical experience were eligible to obtain “State Registered Physiotherapist in United Kingdom” status.

Presently, The Diploma course in Physiotherapy has been stopped by the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka because the B.Sc.(Hons) degree in Physiotherapy has been made the minimum requirement to practice Physiotherapy in Sri Lanka. State Universities such as University of Colombo, University of Peradeniya and Kothalawala Defence University conduct 4 year honours degree to which students are enrolled with the highest Z score at G.C.E. (A/L). University of Kelaniya conducts a bridging B.Sc. (Hons) for diploma holders to bridge the diploma to the degree. Physiotherapy diploma holders in Sri Lanka have been given another opportunity to bridge the diploma to B.Sc. (Hons.) through the prestigious Lincoln University, Malaysia as well. Masters degrees are to be introduced shortly in respective interested fields of the Physiotherapy.