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How Burns Benefit from Hand Therapy

How Burns Benefit from Hand Therapy

by Laura Flanigan, MSOT, OTR/LLeave a Comment

At some point in life, nearly everyone will experience a burn. It may occur when absentmindedly handling hot pots and pans in the kitchen, taking a hot bowl out of the microwave, or tasting hot coffee. Fortunately, many of these burns are minor: they may cause redness to the skin, but they do not blister. That type of burn is a first-degree burn. They are often treated with pain-relievers and first-aid measures.

More serious burns occur with blistering (second-degree), full-thickness skin damage (third-degree), and full-thickness skin damage plus damage to underlying tendons, joints, and bone (fourth-degree). Severe burn injuries may occur due to hot liquids, gas, flames, electricity, and chemicals. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, second-degree burns of the hands and forearms may benefit from splinting while the wounds are healing.

A hand therapist can fabricate custom splints for patients that can hold the affected body part(s) in a position that prevents the joints from becoming too stiff. Full-thickness burns (third and fourth-degrees) may require a surgical procedure called skin grafting, where healthy skin from another part is moved to cover the damaged area where the burn destroyed the skin. A hand therapist can fabricate a custom splint to maintain the affected body part(s) in a position that will help the skin grafts heal and prevent the joints from becoming too stiff.

How burns may benefit from hand therapy after the initial stages of healing and surgery:

Your hand therapist may:

  • Continue custom splinting to improve the range of motion of the joints. especially if a joint contracture develops. A joint contracture is the tightening of tissues around a joint that limits the motion of the joint.
  • Teach you scar management techniques to prevent your scars from limiting joint motion and causing sensitivity/discomfort.
  • Develop an exercise program to increase your motion, strength, and endurance.
  • Design activities to increase your function to ensure that you can do everything you want and need to do, such as dressing, bathing, working, exercising, performing hobbies, and socializing.

An Athletico Hand Therapist Can Help

Burn injuries can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical and psychological health and their social life and work. Ultimately, your hand therapist is not just concerned with increasing how far a joint will move or the strength of a muscle but also concerned with addressing whatever factors following a burn are limiting you from returning to everyday life and the activities you love.

Find a Hand Therapist Near You

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. (2014). How To Treat A Burn. Handcare.
2. Cleveland Clinic. (2021, July 21). Skin Graft.,Skin%20grafting%20is%20a%20type%20of%20surgery.,to%20the%20skin%20around%20it.
3. Aghajanzade, M., Momeni, M., Niazi, M., Ghorbani, H., Saberi, M., Kheirkhah, R., Rahbar, H., & Karimi, H. (2019, June 30). Effectiveness of incorporating occupational therapy in rehabilitation of hand burn patients. National Library of Medicine.
4. UPMC. (n.d.). Joint and Muscle Contractures. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from,%2C%20casts%2C%20and%20physical%20therapy.

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Laura Flanigan was a physical therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy at the time of this blog.

Read more health resources related to these topics:

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