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California Physical Therapy Scope of Practice

Definition of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy means the art and science of physical or corrective rehabilitation or of physical or corrective treatment of any bodily or mental condition of any person by the use of the physical, chemical, and other properties of heat, light, water, electricity, sound, massage, and active, passive, and resistive exercise, and shall include physical therapy evaluation, treatment planning, instruction and consultative services. The practice of physical therapy includes the promotion and maintenance of physical fitness to enhance the bodily movement related health and wellness of individuals through the use of physical therapy interventions.

Services Specifically Excluded

The use of roentgen rays and radioactive materials, for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, and the use of electricity for surgical purposes, including cauterization, are not authorized under the term “physical therapy”, and a license issued pursuant to this chapter does not authorize the diagnosis of disease.


California Physical Therapy Electromyography

Topical Medications

California Physical Therapy Topical Medications

Dry Needling

Dry Needling is not within the scope of practice for physical therapists in California. 

Staple & Suture Removal

Board Opinion:

The subject of staple removal was considered by the Practice Issues Committee of the Physical Therapy Board of California (Board) at their meeting of August 1995. The Practice Issues Committee opined that physical therapists may not perform invasive procedures; specifically in this instance, that of stapling a wound closed.

The removal of staples, on the other hand, is a non-invasive procedure, which would ordinarily come under the heading of nursing services, and is not normally associated with the practice of physical therapy; however, physical therapists may provide any non-invasive physical rehabilitation procedure they have been adequately trained to perform. Should a facility elect to train physical therapists to do staple removal, the facility would need a written protocol to be included in their policies and procedures manual, and to be used in the training of each physical therapist who will perform this procedure.

The training protocol must be sufficient to ensure the facility's patients that the procedure is being done in a safe and efficient manner by personnel who are trained specifically to remove staples. The training should also include procedures for problem situations resulting from staple removal, and for notification of proper medical personnel.

The Board has received multiple inquires as to whether suture removal would be considered a non-invasive procedure such as staple removal. After consulting with a physical therapist expert consultant, it has been determined that the removal of sutures would fall under the same category as the removal of staples as indicated above.


Cal. Bus. and Prof. Code § 2620

Cal. Bus. and Prof. Code § 2620.5

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