A burn patientís full recovery often requires rehabilitation by qualified physical and occupational therapists. Burns can significantly impact a personís ability to move and to conduct his or her daily activities. Therefore, the goal of rehabilitation is to restore the personís abilities and quality of life to the level that it was before the burn, to the greatest extent possible. This will require different therapies for different people.
As soon as the burn has been medically treated and the burn victim is stabilized, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist should evaluate the patient. During this evaluation, the therapists will develop both short and long term goals for the rehabilitation work and develop a plan to implement those goals.
Often the short term goals include increasing the victimís range of motion in the affected area. For example, if the victim burned his or her hand then the physical therapist will first work with the victim to make sure that his or her hand moves up and down and side to side in the same way that it did before the accident. Then they will move on to more complicated things. Scar massage is a useful technique to help the tissue under a burn stay flexible and to increase the range of motion. However, the burn must be stabilized before scar massaging is started so as to not separate the burned skin from the healthy skin.
Another short term goal is often to avoid scarring. Extensive scarring is common with severe burns. Therapists often use pressure therapy by applying pressure to the burned areas with special garments, bandages, inserts or clothing so that scarring will be minimized.
Immediate rehabilitation can be painful for a victim who is already suffering from a painful injury. Sometimes therapy sessions are very short and sometimes they are best held after a patient receives pain medication. No matter the conditions, it is important that these initial sessions be held to give the patient the greatest chance of a full recovery.
Long Term Rehabilitation
The length of physical therapy or rehabilitation will depend on the victim and the severity of the victimís burns. However, once the patient is stabilized a physical therapist will likely start the patient on an exercise program that is designed to increase motion, mobility and functionality. Exercise therapy can help patients learn to walk again, reduce swelling, improve joint and muscle health and decrease the likelihood of blood clots.
While urgent medical care is critical for burn victims, rehabilitation is also critical for a burn victimís full recovery. Therefore, a patient should see a therapist as soon as possible after being injured.