Physical Therapy & Wound Care

Wounds affect more than one million people every year. A wound or skin injury can occur due to an accident, injury, surgery, a burn, circulation problems, diabetes, or spending too much time in one position (not moving enough). Physical Therapists can help people not only prevent wounds, but they can also help heal wounds by providing advanced wound-care treatments and prescribing specific exercises and activities. Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement.

What is a wound?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a wound is defined as an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow, or other impact, typically one in which the skin is cut or broken. It is advised that people should address any wound as soon as possible to lessen the potential for infection.

How can a Physical Therapist help?

A physical therapist will conduct a full evaluation which includes measuring the wound area and inspecting the surrounding skin. A patient’s range of motion, mobility, and strength also will be assessed, as these can contribute to the wound problem, and may assist in the healing process. Your physical therapist may also perform specific testing related to circulation and sensation. Your therapist will then design an individualized care plan based on your needs.

Common treatment approaches can include:

  • Measurement and documentation of the wound characteristics
  • Cleaning of the wound
  • Debridement (removal) of any dead tissue
  • Selection and application of wound dressing
  • Application of compression if necessary
  • Education of the patient, caregivers and/or family members regarding wound care and dressing changes

Who would benefit from physical therapy wound care?

Physical therapy wound care is for patients who have open wounds as a result of pressure, vascular insufficiency, trauma, surgery, and/or diabetes. The most common wounds that are treated by wound care physical therapist are:

  • Necrotic wounds
  • Stage III, IV or unstageable pressure ulcers
  • Diabetic wounds
  • Chronic wounds
  • Venous and/or arterial wounds
  • Extremity wounds with edema
  • Non-healing surgical wounds

How long will physical therapy wound care take?

All wounds heal at different rates and the duration of therapy will be based on the patient’s individual needs. Depending on the type of wound and amount of care needed, the patient may be seen as often as one-three times a week by a physical therapist. The duration of treatment can vary from one-several months. The wound care physical therapist will make adaptations as treatment progresses to maximize wound recovery.