Elizabeth Kenny was born in Australia in 1880. She was trained as an army nurse and treated the sick for 31 years in the bushlands of Australia. She acquired the title “Sister” — used in British countries for “nurse.”
In 1911, when she encountered her first case of polio, Sister Kenny was unaware of conventional polio treatment — immobilizing the affected muscles with splints. Instead, she used common sense and her understanding of anatomy to treat the symptoms of the disease. Sister Kenny applied moist hot packs to help loosen muscles, relieve pain, and enable limbs to be moved, stretched, and strengthened. The theory of her treatment was muscle “re-education” — the retraining of muscles so that they could function again.
In 1940, Sister Kenny traveled to the United States and eventually to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, in 1942, the Sister Kenny Institute was established. Sister Kenny’s pioneering principles of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation of physical therapy.
In 1943, Sister Kenny traveled to Watson to teach Watson’s physical therapy students the “Kenny Method.”