270 years ago Medical Practitioners were “Bone Setters” and “Healers” largely using manual skills and supported by Churches and Social agencies. In London at this time the first “Medical Centres” were established, initially converted houses, which became the first Medical Institutions and now well established Hospitals and Medical Schools such as London Hospital Medical College and St Batholomews. In these early days of the development of Medicine a group of practitioners practicing Manual Therapy led by A Still split off forming a separate group of Osteopathic Physicians. Dramatic advances in Medicine have occurred in the last 100 years. The stethescope, Xrays, vaccinations and antibiotics have all only been part of medicine in the last century. Medicine has evolved with a progressive loss of the “Art” of medicine, clinical hands-on skills and manual therapy have been replaced by high-tech investigations and pharmaceuticals. In the 1970s in NZ there were only a handful of NZ Doctors who practiced Manual Medicine, mostly Cyriax type techniques.
In the early 1970s a study of patients attending the department of Physical Medicine at Auckland Hospital revealed that many patients could have been diagnosed and treated by General Practitioners, but were referred on to the hospital because of lack of knowledge about musculoskeletal problems. As a result and with generous support from the Rose Hellaby Medical ScholarshipsTrust, Drs Johannes Fossgreen and Tobin Pripp, Rheumatologists from Denmark held courses in Manual Medicine in Auckland in 1975. Further teaching by Dr James Fisk Physical Medicine Specialist from Hamilton was held in 1978.
In 1979 a NZ Government commissioned report on Chiropractic delivered recommendations that only Chiropractors and Osteopaths should practice Manual Therapy. The NZ Medical Association at the time formed a committee; Dr G Perry (Rheumatologist), Dr J.G.Abercrombie, Dr R Bernau, Dr C.M.Williamson and Dr D Carnachan (General Practitioners interested in Manual Therapy) to respond to this report. They highlighted deficiencies in the report and it was subsequently never enacted. This committee also acknowledged deficiencies in medical training of Doctors to examine and treat common musculoskeletal complaints with manual therapy. They formed the NZ Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine in 1980 with the aim of promoting and teaching Musculoskeletal Medicine in NZ. This new organization with Dr J.G. Abercrombie as President immediately attracted 40-50 members and over the first year 150 NZ Medical Practitioners. The inaugural conference was held in Rotorua in 1981 and NZAMM became a member of the International Federation of Manual Therapy (FIMM) in the same year. In 1982 a combined meeting was held with the Australian Association of Manual Therapy (AAMM) in Rotorua and strong links were forged between these two organizations that remain today.
The academic development of Musculoskeletal Medicine brought the NZAMM and its Australian counterpart, the Australian Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine (AAMM), closer together and in 1996 a new autonomous body was formed, the Australasian Faculty of Musculoskeletal Medicine (AFMM). This new academic body was formed to specifically develop academic guidelines to Fellowship status and a full specialist training programme in Musculoskeletal Medicine culminating in Fellowship examinations. In 1999 the first Fellowship exams were held and since then there have been 69 Fellows (21 NZ Doctors) admitted to the AFMM. Emeritus Professor Nikolai Bogduk from the University of Newcastle, Australia was a driving force and a strong influence in the development of the Fellowship curriculum. The academic syllabus and guidelines are strongly evidence based and are regularly reviewed. The AFMM registrar training programme is still evolving. A recent option is the Masters of Pain Medicine. Further specialised training is now evolving in, for example, high technology injection diagnostics and treatment including procedures such as; medial branch blocks for zygapophysial joint pain, provocative discography, sacroiliac joint injections and transforaminal injections for radicular pain. All these are performed under radiological control.
In addition to Fellowship qualifications, Doctors wanting to practice as Specialist Musculoskeletal Physicians in NZ must also complete Accreditation in Musculoskeletal Medicine followed by 3 yearly Re-accreditation and Quality Assurance programmes administered by the NZAMM and AFMM.
In 2000 the NZ Medical Council recognized Musculoskeletal Medicine as a new Vocational Branch of Medicine. Since then the Accident Compensation Corporation of NZ (ACC) have recognised Accredited Musculoskeletal Physicians with Fellowship qualifications in their Specialist contracts. A number of private medical insurance companies have also recognised Musculoskeletal Physicians as Specialists in their health policy cover.
Since small beginnings in 1981, Musculoskeletal Medicine in NZ has evolved into a recognised specialist branch of medicine. The NZAMM and Musculoskeletal Medicine in NZ, owe their existence to a small number of visionary, enthusiastic committed Medical Practitioners who have been driven by the need to seek answers and solutions to their patient’s musculoskeletal pain problems. Our organisation and Musculoskeletal Medicine will continue to evolve, driven by this need.
From 1982 to 1988 the NZAMM brought out a number of international Physicians who ran courses and taught Manual Medicine and Manual Therapy. These included:
Over 300 NZ Doctors attended these courses. In 1986 The first “Spine in Action” conference was held in Christchurch and from this conference and with Dr Jiri Dvorak’s input, plans were made to establish formal training programmes for Manual Therapy in NZ, along the lines of the Swiss Association of Manual Therapy training programmes. The NZAMM Manual Therapy training courses commenced in 1987, 4 courses of 1 week training were established, strongly influenced by the teaching of Dr Philip Greenman, Dr Jiri Dvorak and Dr Karel Lewit.
In 1987 The Accident Compensation Corporation of NZ, a national injury insurance scheme, called a meeting of interested parties to address the certification of practitioners with Manual Medicine skills. A working party recommended that:
The University of Otago through the Christchurch Clinical School, did take this up, largely through the inspirational leadership and organisation by Dr Barrie Tait, a Christchurch Rheumatolgist and Pain Medicine Specialist whose responsibility was to develop the syllabus. Professor Bill Gillespie (Professor of Orthopaedics) was chairman of the working party overseeing the academic programme. Barrie Tait’s vision, energy and commitment saw the formation of the Otago University Postgraduate Diploma in Musculoskeletal Medicine, a 9 module minimum 2 year distance teaching diploma and the first intake of 31 students occurred in 1989. Since then there has been over 200 graduates of the Otago Diploma MSM which has been taught in Australia as well as in NZ.