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California PT Scope of Practice

How is physical therapy defined in California?

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.

What is included in the practice of physical therapy?

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.

What is specifically excluded from the practice?

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 physical therapy license does not authorize the diagnosis of disease.

Are there any special trainings required?

California Physical Therapy Electromyography

California Physical Therapy Topical Medications

Board Statements

Can PTs practice wound debridement?

Debridement is performed by the use of sharp instruments including, but not limited to, scalpel, scissors, forceps or tweezers. Debridement of devitalized tissue is not to be confused with surgical debridement, which is to be performed by a physician and includes the removal of both devitalized and vitalized tissues. Physical therapists by education and training should be able to differentiate between necrotic, nonviable tissue, and viable tissues.

It is the official position of the Physical Therapy Board of California that, with appropriate training, physical therapists can perform debridement of nonviable tissue. Furthermore, it is the position of the Board that physical therapists may utilize sharp instruments such as scalpels, scissors, forceps, tweezers and other appropriate instruments to perform debridement.

Does California allow PTs to remove staples and sutures?

The removal of staples 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 removal of sutures would fall under the same category as the removal of staples as indicated above.


Cal. Bus. and Prof. Code ยง2620

California Physical Therapy Board Position Statements

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