How to Find Physiotherapists in Nigeria…a Historical Perspective

To find physiotherapists in Nigeria, the historical perspective gives insight on where a some can be found:

Doyen of Nigeria Physiotherapy Dr. Abayomi Oshin who oversaw the construction of the best physiotherapy dept till date, UCH Ibadan

In Nigeria, physiotherapy came into prominence around the 1950’s. They were commonly called “Dokito Komorin” that is, “Doctor who teaches children to walk.” This was because physiotherapists played a key role in teaching children how to walk and use walking aids after the polio epidemic in the 1950’s.  The term “Dokito Komorin” phrase was likely isolated to western part of Nigeria because that is where the physiotherapy profession training first started in Igbobi Orthopeadic Hospital in Lagos and later in University College Hospital Ibadan.

Icon of Nigeria Physiotherapy, Prof Nwuga of Nwugarian manual therapy procedures

But before physiotherapy we had traditional bone setters who were quite adept at managing orthopeadic conditions. For instance, treatment of back pain involved a combination of standing on the person’s back, doing some interesting footwork which would make the back pop (similar to what obtains in manual therapy today), using heat in form hot towels, application of local herbal concoctions with menthol effects, pulling of joints and bed rest. They would also stabilize fractures using splints made from bamboo tree alongside herbal concoctions. To guage how long the splint should be in place in children, they fractured a chicken’s thigh and whenever the chicken stopped limping was used as a guide to remove the splint from the child.

Icon of Physiotherapy in Nigeria, Pa Ajao

It’s interesting how the professional history of physiotherapy in Nigeria influences it’s the current positioning in Nigeria’s healthcare system today:

  1. It used to be a female dominated profession because it originated from caring for wounded male soldiers.
  2. The rate of growth of the profession was somewhat hampered by its female dominance because females would typically choose family over career, be less likely to challenge the status quo and be less likely to push for more representation in the healthcare system.

    Icon of Nigeria Physiotherapy, Prof Odia

  3. The profession started out as a technician training where physicians would prescribe the exercises and treatment to be given to the patients. So, while trying to find physiotherapists in Nigeria, if you happen to meet a physician who still prescribes intervention for the physiotherapist to do, it is probably because the training of that physician is dated.
  4. The physiotherapy training program in Nigeria has evolved from a technical training diploma to the minimum of B.Physio degree which is a 5 year course. Currently, Physiotherapy PhD programmes are offered in various institutions in the country. So invariably, when trying to find physiotherapist in Nigeria, ask about their degree.
  5. In the early years, physiotherapists were only employed by the federal government in facilities such as the teaching hospitals and occasionally the federal medical centres.

Icon of Nig Physio, Prof Bitrus Ikilama who was visually impaired

So, for folks who need to find physiotherapists in Nigeria, chances are high that you’ll find one in the government hospitals. Alternatively, the person who shares this link is most likely a physiotherapist or knows how to find a physiotherapist. Happy searching!

Tinuade Olarewaju

[email protected]

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