All posts by Dave Nicholls

Dr. Nicholls is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. He is a physiotherapist, lecturer, researcher and writer, with a passion for critical thinking in and around the physical therapies. David is the founder of the Critical Physiotherapy Network, an organisation that promotes the use of cultural studies, education, history, philosophy, sociology, and a range of other disciplines in the study of the profession’s past, present and future. David’s own research work focuses on the critical history of physiotherapy and considers how physiotherapy might need to adapt to the changing economy of health care in the 21st century. He has published 35 peer-reviewed articles and 17 book chapters, many as first author. He is also very active on social media, writing more than 500 blogposts for in the last three years. David has taught in physiotherapy programmes in the UK and New Zealand for over 25 years and has presented his work all around the world. The End of Physiotherapy – the first book-length critical history of physiotherapy, and written by David – was published by Routledge in mid-2017.

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Mystery Physiotherapy History

Those of you older than, say, 50, should have no trouble identifying these.  So do you know what they are and what we did with them?

Exercise in the 16th Century

In De Arte Gymnastica, written in 1569, Hieronymus Mercurialis describes six exercise principles: Each exercise should preserve the existing health state Exercises should be suited to each part of the body All healthy people should exercise regularly Sick people should not be given exercises that might exacerbate existing conditions Special

The history of manipulation

IPHA member Cameron MacDonald, along with Peter Osmothely, Robert Parkes and Darren Rivett have recently published an article in the Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy looking at the ongoing debate around the regulation of manipulative therapies in America. In the article, they take an historical approach to the question

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Learning electrotherapy the hard (wired) way

Most physiotherapists will have memories of learning about electrotherapy. Perhaps you learned from Clayton’s Electrotherapy and Actinotherapyabout sinusoidal currents and short-wave diathermy. And perhaps you still have waking nightmares about induction coils? Or perhaps, if you trained under Enid Gotts at the School of Physiotherapy in Dunedin, New Zealand, you’ll

Notes from IPHA Whole Group meeting – May 2019

We had a really lovely post-WCPT meeting of the whole IPHA membership this week. You can find links to the agenda and audio recording here. There were some decisions made at the meeting that will shape some of the work of the IPHA for the next year or so: The

Light therapy

Physiotherapy has a long history with light therapy. Throughout much of the 20th century, light therapies were an integral part of the therapists toolkit. And actinotherapy – or the therapeutic use of artificial non-ionising radiations, especially ultraviolet light and infra-red (Beckett 1955, 1) – has formed perhaps the largest part.

Pictures and stories

One of the facets of the IPHA that sets it apart from many of the other sub-groups of physiotherapists is its rich heritage of pictures and stories. Whereas for some groups a scientific paper or a treatment pathway best expresses the work of the people in the group, pictures and

Kay Nias

I had the great pleasure of spending an hour in conversation with Dr Kay Nias this morning. Kay is a Medicine Galleries Research Fellow at the Science Museum specializing in the history of physiotherapy, and has recently posted a beautifully illustrated and written piece on the history of the wheelchair

The wonders of the Wellcome Archive

There are many wondrous things to be found at the Wellcome Library in London (link). Some years ago I spend a very happy month at the Wellcome researching the archives of the CSP for my doctorate, and a few days ago I stumbled across a file of photos I’d taken


Call for Papers

MECHANICAL MEDICINE Exploring the History of Healing by Exercise, Manipulation and Massage. 23 May 2019, Science Museum, London. A symposium at the Science Museum, London, organised by Dr Kay Nias (Medicine Galleries Research Fellow). ‘Physical medicine’ or ‘physical therapy’ has ancient origins. For thousands of years, people with illnesses and

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