As a certified wound specialist, I want to empower other therapists and caregivers to know how to handle skin injuries. In many instances, patients are sent home with basic wound care recommendations but no practioner may be looking at their site for weeks or months until the follow-up with the doctor. Physical therapists may be in contact with the patient more often than any other services. It’s a good idea when you are seeing someone after an injury or surgery to incorporate looking at the wound.
Here is an example of a recent wound, I saw.
I was not there to look at the wound itself but because of my training and background, I felt comfortable doing so.
You should consider getting comfortable with a few key concepts and communicating with your patients.
1. They might not even be able to see the wound!
Depending on location of injury, you may be the only eyes with a good view.
In this case, I got on my hands and knees and got out my cell phone flashlight to take a picture considering it’s on the back of the leg. I never touched the wound but we were able to discuss his wound specifically using the picture. He had no idea what it looked like back there. This leads to a conversation about the next few points.
2. Redness and drainage can be signs of infection.
In this case, one of the stiches popped and there is a slight redness around that area.
I’m not saying it’s infected (no heavy draining or foul smell) but made sure to let this client know to watch for those symptoms.
Any increase in pain, warmth to the area, drainage and swelling could be problematic.
I have told patients before they can always make a line along the red line, if they are not sure if it’s getting bigger. Then if the redness grows, they know it’s time to go back to the MD.
3. It’s ok to scrub it just a tiny bit.
If you look closely you’ll see just a bit of dry yellow crusty drainage. You want a wound clean of crust to let that wound heal from the outside in and top to bottom without any barriers. Keeping it moist and cleaning it off will help. You might get a few drops of blood and that is OK as long as it’s not flowing. He also has stitches, you want to be careful but to gently clean the crusty off with water in the shower is a good idea.
4. Don’t leave it open to the air.
Keep it moist and covered! It’s NOT better to leave it open to the air and dry out.
If you want it to heal faster, keep it covered at least until there is no more pink, fleshy parts exposed and it looks more like new skin. Only then should you leave it open.
Leaving it open when it’s still an open wound, can lead to infection, slower healing time or a worse scar.
5. If you need help getting more comfortable, look to a Certified Wound Specialist CWS.
Reach out to me if you need some help! Heather C. Flexer, DPT, CWS.
Find me on Facebook at Better Wellness PT, Instagram at Hcflex_Betterwellnesspt or email at firstname.lastname@example.org