Occupational Therapy might not be on your mind after experiencing a burn on your hands or upper extremity, but therapy can actually be an extremely important part of your healing process! First degree burns are often treated easily at home. But as burns progress through second and third degree burns, therapy becomes more necessary. In this article we will address burn rehabilitation through wound care and scar remodeling.
Wound care and maintenance is essential for avoiding an infection after a burn. If your physician recommends occupational therapy for rehabilitation, your therapist will assist with dressing changes and ointment application during therapy sessions. Depending on the severity of the burn, your doctor may recommend therapy right away, or they may delay it until the burn has time to heal a little. Your therapist will work on strength, flexibility and range of motion in the affected body part, but will also ensure that your wound is cleaned, moisturized and properly wrapped before leaving. Keeping your skin lubricated with specialty ointment after a burn is important to avoid drying out or cracking, leading to an infection. Your therapist will also go over proper wound care techniques for you to perform at home along with your home exercises.
Positioning and Scar Remodeling
Another essential function of a therapist after experiencing a burn is to aid with body position and scar remodeling. Positioning involves specialized splints to help heal the scar properly. These splints will guide the tissues to heal in the directions that promote better outcomes for mobility. Then your skin scars after a burn, it begins to thicken, causing an issue with mobility in the affected area. Thus, along with positioning comes scar remodeling. Compression sleeves or gloves add pressure to prevent further swelling. As the swelling in your hand or arm decreases, your sleeves will be sized down to continue adding pressure. This process is an essential one because it prevents the skin from thickening, keeping the scars looser so that as the skin heals, it has more flexibility. Your therapist will help determine which splints and sleeves are appropriate for you during the recovery process based on swelling level and activity level. As the skin heals and your regain more flexibility, your therapist will incorporate more exercises to maintain that flexibly, strength and range of motion.
Like surgical scars, scars from burns can also benefit from activities like scar massages and desensitization techniques. These therapeutic activities aid with skin texture, sensitivities and elasticity. To learn more about how occupational therapists can help with scar treatment for burns or other scars, check out our blog Make Your Scars Less Noticeable Through Occupational Therapy.