As a physical therapist, you have the skills and knowledge to assist your patients with wound care. You even have the option of becoming a board-certified management clinical specialist. It has been estimated that wounds negatively impact over 1 million individuals each and every single year.

You may aid in preventing wounds, assist in wound-care management and treatments, and even prescribe various exercises and activities that optimize the healing process of wounds. In this wound and wound care guide, you will learn valuable information pertaining to wounds and how you may assist patients suffering from wounds.

Wound Care

What is a Wound?

A wound is a type of injury that results in the breakage of the skin and/or other tissues within the body. A cut, a scratch, a scrape, and any other type of skin puncture are all classified as being a wound. It is a disruption that interferes with the integrity of the skin. It is a type of disruption that could result in pain and the development of infection.

What are the Different Types of Wounds?

In short, there are wounds that are considered to be “open”, “closed”, “acute”, or “chronic”. Below, we have outlined a brief explanation of each:

  1. Open Wounds – These types of wounds include those that expose any type of tissue and/or organ and are open to the environment surrounding a patient.
  2. Closed Wounds – These types of wounds include those that do not have any degree of exposure to the internal tissues and/or organs.
  3. Acute Wounds – An acute wound is one that heals in a predicted amount of time without the development of complications.
  4. Chronic Wounds – A chronic wound is one that takes an excessive amount of time to heal and results in some type of complication.

In addition to the above-listed wounds, there are other types of wounds that you may have to address as a physical therapist. These include the following:

  • Clean Wounds – These are wounds that do not include any types of contamination through the means of foreign debris or other types of materials.
  • Contaminated Wounds – These wounds may have dirt, a form of bacteria, or any other substance in them and may be infected.
  • Internal Wounds – These types of wounds are due to an internal issue. Examples of these issues include impairments in circulation, diabetes, and neuropathy.
  • External Wounds – These wounds are caused by an external force or trauma.
  • Penetrating Wounds – These types of wounds are caused by trauma that breaks through the skin.
  • Non-Penetrating Wounds – These wounds stem from blunt trauma and/or abrasions.

Wound Categories

In addition to the various types of wounds outlined above, wounds may also be classified according to category. In short, there are four main categories. These are outlined below with a brief description of each:

  1. Arterial – These typically occur in those who have been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease. This is due to the decreased level of blood flow to the legs, ankles, and feet.
  2. Diabetic – These types of wounds stem from structural and sensation-based changes that occur in the feet. Many may get wounds on their legs that take longer to heal.
  3. Pressure – These wounds occur in those with limited mobility and those who are bedridden. They may also impact those who have medical items – such as splints – from the pressure.
  4. Venous – These occur in patients who have chronic venous disease. The issue stems from circulation problems that cause difficulties in pumping the fluid away from their legs. This causes swelling. As a result, the swelling may cause the skin to break or – if a wound is present – may result in slow healing.

How to Diagnose Wounds in Your Patients

Once you become familiar with the various types of wounds that your patient will experience, you will perform evaluations on your patients in order to diagnose any possible wounds.

If you discover a wound, you will measure it and then perform an inspection of the surrounding skin.

Immediately thereafter, you will need to evaluate mobility, the strength of the patient, and their range of motion, and inquire about underlying health issues.

What are the Signs of a Wound?

Many wounds are easy to identify; however, there are instances in which they are not so easy to identify. When working with patients who do not have obvious wounds but have certain underlying issues – such as limited mobility and diabetes – it is important that you inspect the skin carefully. You will need to keep your eye out for the following signs:

  • Skin Breaks
  • Changes in Skin Color
  • Drainage
  • Areas Where Pain Is Experienced
  • Temperature Fluctuations

Your Responsibilities as a Physical Therapist

As a physical therapist, you will be trained and highly skilled in managing and treating all of the various wound types. You will then create a customized treatment plan for your patient. The care plan may include the following:

  1. Patient/Family/Caregiver Education and Training – You will work to explain the type of wound the patient has to the patient and anyone who assists with their care – such as family members and/or their caregiver. You may need to educate on positioning the patient in various situations, making transfers, skin inspection, wound inspection, and wound care.
  2. Wound Care – As a physical therapist, you are well-versed in wound care. Part of your responsibilities will be how to care for a wound, how to remove dead tissue from that wound, applying dressings to help in the healing process, compression wrapping, casting, electrical stimulation, negative pressure treatment, and the use of a type of specialized ultrasound.
  3. Helping in Strength Improvements and Mobility – It is a known fact that most wounds worsen if a patient is weak or does not move around a lot. As a result, you will create an exercise program that places an emphasis on improving the patient’s strength levels and optimizing their mobility. If the patient engages in these activities, the healing process will speed up and they will get better soon.

Do I Have to be a Special Type of Physical Therapist to Treat Wounds?

No, all physical therapists receive the education and have the experience necessary to treat patients who have wounds. It is possible to become a physical therapist with a focus on wound care. In addition to this, you may become a board-certified clinical specialist. In this program, you will have a residency where you specialize in wound management, and/or you will become a certified wound specialist credential.

The wound management area in physical therapy allows you a broad understanding of assessing and maintaining the overall integrity of the integumentary system of people of various age groups. You will learn how to manage all the different types of wounds and conditions that impact the integumentary system of the body.

Join Us

If you are a physical therapist looking to specialize in wound care and assist patients with the backing of various tools and resources, we here at the Colorado Physical Therapy Network recommend that you join us. This is especially true if have your own practice. We can make a true difference in how you do business!

Our network specializes in providing a group structure to ensure an environment that results in mutual cooperation between physical therapists and other medical professionals, third-party payers, and the patients that you serve. Not only does this increase your bottom line, but it also promotes outcomes for each patient that you serve.

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