What is the Future of Physiotherapy?

I thought that today I would write a post that is not exactly the most practical or clinical (which is generally the way I like to do things) but one that is more thought provoking. I haven’t written a light-hearted blog-style post in a little while, so here it is.

Are you a young(ish) sports physiotherapist? Then what changes in the world of physiotherapy do you think you will you see within your career that may expand over the next 30+ years?


To think about the future of physiotherapy, you must first consider the future of our world in general. The future, it seems, will be driven by technology. I suppose that it would be easy to think of our world as quite similar to what it is now, but with cooler gadgets – like holographic mobile phones. However, I think we all know that in reality there will be many things that change.


The world of business is likely to change. It has been suggested that there will be large shifts in the types of businesses that can survive this new world. Our worlds are increasingly becoming online. As an example, newsagents are likely to fail to exist as they currently do. The new generations do not purchase newspapers or magazines, they read online newspapers and blogs. Thus, newsagents will have to change or fail. Whilst this is an easy example to understand, I am certain that the impact of technology will have a reach much further than your local paper shop.


Innovations in the world of health are going to be absolutely incredible. I would suggest that the improvements over the next 30 years are going to eclipse the improvements that have occurred over the previous 30. There will be advances in the realms of medicine, surgery, pharmacy, radiology, and of course physiotherapy.


What sports will the population be playing in 30 years? Will rugby and football still be a part of our culture. Or will MultiBall and DipCheezy be the new popular sports of the world (yes, I definitely made those sports up). The $64000 question for us becomes will the athletes that undertake these sports even get injured, or will injuries be prevented by rules/equipment/technology and superior training/preparation techniques?


So what impact will these changes have on the future of physiotherapy? The current business model of private physiotherapy practice may (or may not) be strong enough to survive the challenges of the future. Although, it is quite possible that it may have to change to meet the differing demands of future generations. If you can predict these changes in the market – please let me know!!

Want to think of something scary? What happens to us if they invent patellofemoral joint dysfunction pills – which improve VMO and proximal hip strength and loosen lateral knee structures? Sound crazy, I think it is, but I guarantee in the past they thought seeing INSIDE someone was crazy too. Not so crazy is the likelihood that pain medications will improve, and side-effects will reduce, and that less people will seek out physiotherapy treatment secondary to pain.

Remember, in the future we will be treating the McDonald’s Drive-Thru generation. They will want the quick-fix and want it NOW. If there is a pill/injection/futuristic laser, 6 – 12 weeks of strengthening exercises is just not gonna happen. Maybe we should hope that the futuristic physiotherapists (read: us) are the ones holding those lasers?

What are your thoughts on the future of physiotherapy? Be sure to let me know in the comments or catch me on Facebook or Twitter

If you require any sports physiotherapy products be sure check out PhysioSupplies (AUS) or MedEx Supply (Worldwide)


  1. Interesting post, I definitely agree with a number of your points.

    I think the issue of how to effectively treat and rehabilitate the “Drive-Thru” generation will be the most challenging area to face physiotherapy over the next decade.

    That being said, this should also represent the greatest opportunity for innovation in the areas of diagnosis and treatment as patients seek immediate solutions to their health problems.

    Great post.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and feedback Daniel.

      I definitely agree. These guys are going to want the highest quality care in the shortest possible timeframes. This is definitely something we are used to as sports physiotherapists, as our athletes are the same!

      I am excited about what innovations our profession, and indeed the world of sports medicine, develop over the coming years! As stated, I just hope these innovations don’t put us out of business.

      Thanks again.

  2. We have already seen that technology can be both detrimental and beneficial to human health. The better we get at making our world more convenient to live in, the worse off our bodies become at being able to fully enjoy this same world – highlighted through the ever-increasing levels of obesity and chronic disease in the developed and developing world.

    Technology is great and I’m excited to think where the world is heading. Eric Topol explains in his TED Talk some of the amazing advances already being made in health/medicine: http://www.ted.com/talks/eric_topol_the_wireless_future_of_medicine.html
    But it won’t solve all our problems without creating a few along the way.

    You’re right in saying we are becoming a ‘want it now’ society, but if we come to rely on the quick fix, it will make us all less accountable for our own health which can not be a good thing.

    The way human beings are put together hasn’t changed much for thousands of years and it won’t anytime soon.
    What technology will do is help us to better understand our bodies and therefore monitor/manage our health better.

    Where Physios will fit in to things in the next 30 years will be very interesting to see.

    • Dave, thanks for the comment! The TED video is a great link, everyone should check it out (this is the stuff I am talking about!). I agree; technology helps the world of health in so many ways, but takes away from it in many others. Where we fit in to this in the future will be an interesting ride.

      Thanks again, Dave. Also nice website (at http://www.experiencerunning.net) for those interested in the wonderful world of running.

      • Cheers for the shout-out.

        Glad you enjoyed the TED talk – there are plenty more great videos on there.

  3. Personally I think pills to ‘cure’ musculoskeletal disorders are pretty unlikely, certainly within our lifetimes. I think the important changes are going to come in peoples lifestyles, and this is going to provide a lot of oppurtunity for physiotherapists. We have to assume that sedentary jobs and lifestyles are going to continue to reign supreme, so associated MSK problems (both treating them and reducing them with ergonomic assessments, exercise etc) will continue to be important.

    Also bear in mind that most electrotherapy type interventions ARE used by physiotherapists. The high-tech lasers might have replaced the ultrasound and tens machines of the 70s but physios are still the people that are seen at the forefront of msk treatment. How we deal with competition from osteos, chiros, sports therapists etc over the next 30 years should be interesting too, how will we continue to make ourselves unique?

    • You are right Joe, we already hold these weapons. Hopefully we continue to use them into the future.

      In my opinion it will be our superior knowledge of exercise therapy that will make us unique…but who knows…