Sr. Elizabeth Kenny

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Sr. Elizabeth Kenny



Born:  Elizabeth Kenny at Warialda New South Wales

1880 - 1952

Her father was a farmer from Ireland and worked as an itinerant on the various farms around New South Wales and Queensland. Because of this the family moved a lot, making her education very limited. She attended many small primary schools in Queensland and New South Wales.


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 hotpacks 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. The medical profession widely opposed her unorthodox methods and brought about a Royal Commission to stop her practicing. This was in 1938.


In 1940 the Queensland government assisted her to go to the United States where her renown had preceded her. Thus she began courses for Doctors and Physiotherapists from all over the world. In 1942, the Sister Kenny Institute was established in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sister Kenny's pioneering principles of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation of physical therapy. Today, Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Services is one of the premier rehabilitation centers in the country, known for its progressive and innovative vision.

In 1951 she retired to Toowoomba in Queensland and died there the following year.

Last Modified: Thursday May 20, 2010


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