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Hand Burns Hand Therapy

“Working with a knowledgeable hand therapist can make the difference between success and failure in complex hand surgical cases. The therapist extends the continuum of our care, as well as functioning as coach and trainer for our patients.”

Marybeth Ezaki, MD, Past President, American Society for Surgery of the Hand

In Phoenix Rehab, our senior hand therapists are experienced licensed and dedicated therapists (physiotherapists and/or occupational therapists) who specialized ONLY in the rehabilitation, treatment and management of painful fingers, hands, wrists, forearm & elbow conditions, because of interest, passion and expertise.

Example of a burn to the back of the hand

Our hands are usually at higher risk for burns because they are often handling a variety of objects be it for

  • cooking
  • working with electricity, chemicals or hot items

Hand burns happens when cells in the skin are injured due to contact with heat, electricity, chemicals or radiation. When a hand is burned, the skin can become very tight, making it hard for a person to use his or her hand normally.

What causes a hand burn?

There are four types of hand burns:

  • thermal burns
  • electrical burns
  • chemical burns
  • radiation burns

Thermal burns are from contact with something very hot like fire, hot water or grease.

Electrical burns are from contact with electricity. An example of an electrical burn is when a child sticks a finger in a light socket.

Chemical burns are caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals.

Radiation burns are caused by the sun, tanning booths, sunlamps or radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

What are the symptoms of a hand burn?

Hand burns can cause

  • redness
  • swelling
  • infection
  • loss of skin
  • loss of skin color

If not treated early, hand burns can lead to finger, thumb and wrist tightness.

Our skin has multiple layers; and unfortunately, the greater the degree of burn means more parts and more layers of the skin are injured and the burn as well as damage is worse.

Burns are classified from least amount of damage (first-degree) to the most amount of damage (third- and fourth-degree). When the burn affects the deeper layers of skin, it can become tighter and take longer to heal.

Healed hand burn and scarring

What is the treatment of a hand burn?

The treatment of a hand burn depends on the severity of the burn.

First-degree burns require minimal treatment.

Second-, third- and fourth-degree burns will require wound care, possible skin grafts by a hand surgeon and early hand therapy to prevent stiffness of the joints and skin (scarring).

The treatment of hand burns has become more advanced as newer wound care bandages assist with healing.

What can a hand therapist do for me?

A patient should be referred to our senior hand therapist as soon as possible after any type of hand burns (simple to complex). 

Our senior hand therapiss may make an resting splint orthosis to position the hand (yes, resting in good position will help the injured / burnt hand to heal better) and will help with cleaning the wounds and applying bandages.

As the burn heals, the hand therapist will help to keep the scars from becoming too tight.

Compression garments are often recommended to help control the scarring. Hand therapy will also include teaching the patient exercises to improve motion in the fingers and strength of the hand.

Example of orthosis and compression glove for a hand burn

Patients may also receive the following hand therapy treatment modalities: