History of Musculoskeletal Medicine in New Zealand

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Medicine has evolved with a progressive loss of the “Art” of medicine, clinical hands-on skills and manual therapy have been replaced by high-tech investigations and pharmaceuticals.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.

History of Training Programmes and Courses

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:

  • 1983 Dr Barry Wyke.
  • 1984 Dr P Goodley Osteopathic Physician, USA who taught muscle energy techniques.
  • 1985 Dr Robert Burns, UK.
  • 1986 Prof Philip Greenman Michigan College of Osteopathy, USA, Dr Jiri Dvorak Neurologist, Switzerland and Dr Vladimir Janda, Czechoslovakia.
  • 1988 Dr Karel Lewit Neurologist, Czechoslovakia.

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.

  • Course 1. The Spine. Diagnosis and Manual Therapy
  • Course 2. The Peripheral Joints. Diagnosis and Manual Therapy.
  • Course 3. The Spine. Mobilisation and Neuromuscular Therapy.
  • Course 4. The Spine. Mobilisation and Impulse Techniques.
Structure & Governance
Faculty Competencies    
Office Holders
Membership lists


Structure & Governance
Faculty Competencies
Phone:   +64 9 459 44 00