Physiotherapy explained

If you've ever wondered what physiotherapy is and what physiotherapists do then this section of the site is for you. Very briefly, physiotherapy is a healthcare profession concerned with human function and movement and maximising potential. Physiotherapists work in a wide variety of health settings such as intensive care, mental illness, stroke recovery, occupational health, and care of the elderly. Physiotherapy is certainly far more than fixing musculoskeletal sports injuries although that is perhaps the most common perception of the profession.


A-Z of conditions

Physiotherapy may not immediately come to mind when looking to treat tinnitus, incontinence or leg ulcers. However, a brief look at our A-Z will give some indication of the huge range of conditions that physiotherapists do treat. The A-Z also includes a few treatment modalities that are part of physiotherapy practice. By no means a definitive list, it serves to illustrate the the breadth of physiotherapy practice.

Getting physiotherapy treatment

Chartered physiotherapists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, health centres, GP practices, schools, work places, private clinics and also by visiting people at home. If you are a UK resident the three main treatment routes to see a physiotherapist are via the NHS, via private practitioners and via the independent sector. It's also possible to get treatment through less common routes such as charities and the voluntary sector. Should you wish to see a physiotherapist for private treatment, please make sure they are chartered and registered.


Our features section can help you improve your general health and well being. It has a selection of self-help guides that currently includes: steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis, injury-free DIY and ways to strengthen muscles in your pelvic floor. New features appear on a regular basis so make sure you become a regular visitor.

Complementary health

Our complementary health section explains the strong overlap between physiotherapy and complementary health. There is a growing interest among people looking for a holistic approach to the treatment of illness and disease. Chartered physiotherapists believe this is important and will look at the 'whole' person taking into account previous medical history, work and lifestyle before making a diagnosis and devising a treatment programme that is tailored to an individual's needs.



CSP history timeline image


photo of historical physiotherapy treatmentThe Society was founded in 1894 by four young nurses: Lucy Marianne Robinson, Rosalind Paget, Elizabeth Anne Manley and Margaret Dora Palmer. They set up the Society of Trained Masseuses to protect their profession from falling into disrepute as a result of media stories warning young nurses and the public of unscrupulous people offering massage as a euphemism for other services.


 photo of historical physiotherapy treatmentBy 1900, the Society acquired the legal and public status of a professional organisation and became the Incorpororated Society of Trained Masseuses. In 1920, the Society was granted a Royal Charter. It amalgamated with the Institute of Massage and Remedial Gymnastics. As the Chartered Society grew in strength, branches and local boards were established all over the country and in 1944 the Society adopted its present name, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), being more representative of the field of work it covered.


 photo of historical physiotherapy treatmentIn 1968 and 1970 respectively, the Faculty of Physiotherapists and the Physiotherapists Association Ltd amalgamated with the CSP. In 1976, the Society was certified as an independent trade union. In the same year, the first degree course in physiotherapy was established.


 photo of historical physiotherapy treatmentIn 1977, the Department of Health memorandum HC(77)33 instituted professional autonomy for physiotherapists. In 1978 a bye-law change in the Society's statutes finally allowed physiotherapists to treat patients without prior medical referral. The Society of Remedial Gymnastics and Recreational Therapy merged with the CSP in 1985.


 photo of physiotherapy studentsIn 1986 student physiotherapists were admitted as members in order to involve them more closely in the development of the Society. In 1992, the profession became an all graduate entry profession. In the same year, the Society affiliated to the Trade Union Congress. In 1994, the Society allowed physiotherapy assistants to become associates.