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Washington Physical Therapy Scope of Practice

The Practice of Physical Therapy

"Practice of physical therapy" is based on movement science and means:

    • Examining, evaluating, and testing individuals with mechanical, physiological, and developmental impairments, functional limitations in movement, and disability or other health and movement-related conditions in order to determine a diagnosis, prognosis, plan of therapeutic intervention, and to assess and document the ongoing effects of intervention;
    • Alleviating impairments and functional limitations in movement by designing, implementing, and modifying therapeutic interventions that include therapeutic exercise; functional training related to balance, posture, and movement to facilitate self-care and reintegration into home, community, or work; manual therapy including soft tissue and joint mobilization and manipulation; therapeutic massage; assistive, adaptive, protective, and devices related to postural control and mobility except as restricted by (c) of this subsection; airway clearance techniques; physical agents or modalities; mechanical and electrotherapeutic modalities; and patient-related instruction;
    • Training for, and the evaluation of, the function of a patient wearing an orthosis or prosthesis. Physical therapists may provide those direct-formed and prefabricated upper limb, knee, and ankle-foot orthoses, but not fracture orthoses except those for hand, wrist, ankle, and foot fractures, and assistive technology devices as exemptions from the defined scope of licensed orthotic and prosthetic services. It is the intent of the legislature that the unregulated devices are in the public domain to the extent that they may be provided in common with individuals or other health providers, whether unregulated or regulated under this title , without regard to any scope of practice;
    • Performing wound care services that are limited to sharp debridement, debridement with other agents, dry dressings, wet dressings, topical agents including enzymes, hydrotherapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and other similar treatments. Physical therapists may not delegate sharp debridement. A physical therapist may perform wound care services only by referral from or after consultation with an authorized health care practitioner;
    • Reducing the risk of injury, impairment, functional limitation, and disability related to movement, including the promotion and maintenance of fitness, health, and quality of life in all age populations; and
    • Engaging in administration, consultation, education, and research.

What services are expressly prohibited?

The use of Roentgen rays and radium for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, the use of electricity for surgical purposes, including cauterization, and the use of spinal manipulation, or manipulative mobilization of the spine and its immediate articulations, are not included under the term "physical therapy".

Advanced Practices

Sharp Debridement

Spinal Manipulation

Electroneuromyography Examinations

Topical Medications

A physical therapist licensed under this chapter may purchase, store, and administer medications such as hydrocortisone, fluocinonide, topical anesthetics, silver sulfadiazine, lidocaine, magnesium sulfate, zinc oxide, and other similar medications, and may administer such other drugs or medications as prescribed by an authorized health care practitioner for the practice of physical therapy. A pharmacist who dispenses such drugs to a licensed physical therapist is not liable for any adverse reactions caused by any method of use by the physical therapist.


RCW 18.74.010

RCW 18.74.160

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