History of Physiotherapy in Kenya

An African man with an amputated right upper limb and left lower limb

Physiotherapy education first began in Kenya in 1942 on small scale and continued as such until 1966. During this time there were graduates of various programs who were known as masseurs, orthopedic assistants, assistant reablement officers, physio-occupational assistants and physiotherapy assistants.

In 1966 two changes were made:
1) New students were accepted yearly, and
2) Following a state qualifying examination, the students graduated as physiotherapists.

At that time the sole provider for physiotherapy education was the medical training center that was located in Nairobi.

The curriculum for the training was such as: after completion of the ordinary level, which was like the high school education, they would enter the physiotherapy program in the medical training center. Three years were then spent at the center following a curriculum similar to the curricula used in physiotherapy schools in Great Britain. If they were successful in the program, they would be registered as physiotherapist and then progress to work in government hospitals as per their contract which they had signed upon entering the program.

Physiotherapists working at that time would face a lot of challenges. Their curricula was modeled on western thoughts and standards, this would present quite a challenge as the diseases being treated in Kenya differed from those in the countries where the physiotherapy curricula was developed. Resources being used in the syllabus were also lacking in the country.
At that time the African traditions would also prove to be troublesome. The male-female roles in the community greatly affected interpersonal relationships and women working in physiotherapy would find difficulty in obtaining cooperation from her male colleagues.

Physiotherapy continued to develop over the years with training ongoing only at the diploma level.Today, physiotherapy has evolved to much better form. Major hospitals in counties provide physiotherapy services and physiotherapy education had improved. More that five universities now provide degree level physiotherapy programme.

As we celebrate world physiotherapy day, its amazing to think of the many challenges the profession has overcome to be where today. I wish you all an active world physiotherapy day!


Dry, V. D., Galecki, G. L., & Amon, R. B. (1973). American physical therapists in Kenya. Physical therapy, 53(5), 507-511.

Kay, E., Kilonzo, C., & Harris, M. J. (1994). Improving rehabilitation services in developing nations: the proposed role of physiotherapists. Physiotherapy, 80(2), 77-82.

Peat, M. (1970). The establishment of physical therapy in developing countries. Progress in physical therapy, 1(3), 232.