Why Do I Need Burn Therapy?

Burn therapy is an integral part of recovering from your burn injury because it helps you regain range of motion, strength, endurance, and function.

We help you get back to being yourself. Our therapy team includes occupational and physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and rehabilitation aides.

What You Learn During Therapy

During therapy, you will learn how to:

  • use your legs and arms again,
  • improve your balance,
  • walk with greater ease,
  • dress with more confidence,
  • eat, and
  • groom yourself.

Our goal is to help you to do everything you did before the injury.

Where is Burn Therapy Located? 

All patients who need burn therapy will come to our burn outpatient clinic. Our outpatient clinic is located on the 4th floor of University of Utah Hospital.

Find a Burn Specialist

In the Hospital

Where Therapy Takes Place

Initially, burn therapy will be done at the bedside to accommodate those who are sedated or on a ventilator. Individual exercises will be posted in your room and must be performed several times a day. As you progress, therapy will continue in the burn therapy gym using specialized equipment to achieve rehabilitation goals.

Exercise stimulates circulation, reduces swelling, maintains strength and functional movement, and prevents scar contracture, a tightening of the skin. Exercise and mobility also prevent serious medical conditions such as blood clots, pneumonia, and bone loss.

Once you are able, you will be given a range of motion, strengthening, and mobility program. Your therapist will help you with your program until you and your loved ones feel comfortable and are able to manage this independently. You are encouraged to perform normal activities such as eating, dressing and walking as soon as you are able.

At Home

Our therapists follow patients’ progress and therapy needs after discharge from the hospital. You will work with them at the Outpatient Burn Clinic as needed. For those who live outside the Salt Lake Valley and in other states, you will coordinate care with physical and occupational therapists in your area.

Keep in mind, rehabilitation will be necessary for several months after discharge. Many patients with large injuries find that rehabilitation becomes a full-time job. Parents caring for an injured child may be overwhelmed at times, but we can offer many resources to help.

An important part of rehabilitation is for patients to return to as normal a routine as possible. Children are encouraged to engage in normal play activities and all patients are encouraged to remain active and perform tasks around the house. This will enhance burn therapy exercises, lead to a faster recovery, and prevent significant loss of strength and endurance.


Factors that determine scarring include:

  • Depth of burn.
  • Healing time.
  • Body part burned.
  • Genetic tendency to form scar tissue.

Therapists will evaluate you for scarring and make recommendations for treatment. Two common complications from a burn injury are hypertrophic scar and scar contracture.

Hypertrophic Scar

Some second degree burns that heal spontaneously and burns that have been grafted require special attention to manage scarring. Any burn that takes longer than two weeks to heal is at a higher risk of forming hypertrophic scar tissue. Hypertrophic scars have excessive collagen fibers, which form uneven, raised tissue. Custom-made compression garments apply constant pressure and heat to the collagen fibers, encouraging formation of a smoother and flatter position. This flattening and smoothing should help joint motion and improve function.

Compression garments come in a variety of colors and are worn 23 1⁄2 hours a day. Temporary supports may be used until you are fit for compression garments. Silicone and foam inserts may also be needed underneath the supports to apply additional pressure in specific areas.

For several months after the injury, the immature scar tissue is red, thick, tender, and itchy. The garments must be worn during the entire healing process, up to 12–18 months. Once scars mature, they will be softer, pliable, and more even in color.


You are at the highest risk for burn scar contracture during the first 9 months after your injury. A burn wound will heal in the position it is held most often. The position of comfort is the position of contracture. For this reason, it is important to maintain proper positioning during rest to prevent contractures. Contractures are formed when new skin that has lost elasticity forms across joints, making it difficult to stretch. A therapist will work with you and your loved ones to review proper positioning.

Proper positioning while in the hospital includes using special arm boards attached to the bed and elevating arms and legs to prevent swelling. In addition, patients with neck and ear burns will not be allowed to use pillows. While this may be uncomfortable, it is necessary during the healing process.

Splinting may be used to assist with positioning and protect skin grafts, especially at night. Splints may be made from several materials, including plastic, plaster or fiberglass cast material, or foam material. You and your loved ones will be instructed on how to apply the splint prior to discharge.