Burn Rehabilitation Program

When you or your family member sustains severe burns, getting the best care possible is essential for both recovery and peace of mind.

UC San Diego Health's Regional Burn Center offers a comprehensive burn rehabilitation program for people like you. We want to facilitate your return to the highest possible functional level of independence.

A physical or occupational therapist or both may be involved in your care. Look to us to customize a rehab plan that works through your complete recovery phase.

Your full participation in the rehabilitation process is essential. Recovery from a severe burn can be a lifetime process, and by working together, you, your family and your rehabilitation team can ensure a successful outcome.

Inpatient Therapy: What to Expect in the Hospital

Therapy starts on the day of admission and continues throughout the hospital stay. During the acute care stage, our focus is to prevent a loss of range of motion, initiate scar management, assist with reduction in swelling and educate you and your family about possible burn-related problems.

As the burns and grafts heal, scar management will be addressed in the early stages by range-of-motion exercises, soft-tissue massage and pressure wraps.

Positioning devices may be necessary to immobilize or place an extremity in a more functional position after surgery for grafting. Your UC San Diego Health occupation therapist may customize a thermoplastic splint for your specific needs to maintain joint range of motion or tendon integrity. The splint will be adjusted as needed during the recovery process.

During the early stages of recovery, the physical therapist manages the lower body, and the occupational therapist addresses the upper body. They often work together to mobilize you when you’re ready to get up for the first time.

Outpatient Therapy: What to Expect After Discharge

After discharge from the hospital, it is essential to stick with the home exercise program provided by your rehabilitation therapists. You also may need to attend outpatient therapy sessions with the physical and/or occupational therapist. Our goal is to prepare you to return to work or school. 

Treatment can consist of continued scar management, splinting, strengthening and practicing daily activities or work-related tasks. Regular visits to the burn clinic will help to identify problems that may occur during the often-difficult adjustment period after discharge from the hospital.

How to Become a Patient

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Your Role and Family Involvement in Therapy

As you become more active in the therapy sessions, the occupational therapist will begin preparing you to resume the daily living skills of bathing, dressing, hygiene and grooming. The physical therapist will help you regain the endurance, strength and balance needed for activities such as getting into a chair, standing and walking.

Following the rehabilitation programs is crucial in obtaining the highest level of recovery.

Grafted tissue can become very tight and severely restrict the range of motion needed for functional activities. You may need to do range-of-motion and stretching exercises hourly to avoid skin tightness and joint contractures.

These exercises may continue for up to one year after a burn. It’s best to do as many normal activities as possible to facilitate the return of the strength and flexibility needed for everyday tasks.

Regional Burn Center Location