Life After Burn Injury: Physical Pain
Approximately 33,000 people suffer a burn injury requiring hospital emergency room treatment annually in southern New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. The numbers of burn victims and the extent of their injuries can be staggering. However large the numbers may be, every burn victim’s experience is personal. What can people with severe burns expect as they work to recover from their injuries and put their lives back together?
One of the obvious results of a severe burn injury is physical pain and discomfort. Depending on the severity of the burn, physical pain can continue for weeks, months, and in some cases, for the rest of a person’s life. Physical pain can impact many aspects of a burn victim’s life. The pain can severely limit a person’s ability to work, to sleep, and to do everyday activities. Many burn victims report the pain and anger associated with constant itching as the worst part of the recovery process.
Physical pain can also have secondary effects. For instance, ongoing pain can affect a person’s mood, leading to depression and anxiety. Pain can hamper the healing process, as well. It can inhibit a person’s ability to perform rehabilitation exercises and lead to loss of range of motion.
The best approach for many burn victims is a multidisciplinary approach. In other words, you may need more than a physician to help you get through a severe burn. Victims often require physicians from multiple areas of expertise, like plastic surgery and pain management. Psychologists and physical therapists are often involved in burn victim care, as well.
During the recovery process, it is important to be up front and honest with your healthcare team. No awards are handed out for stoicism or “toughing it out.” Honest input from the patient is essential in assessing the injury and providing the appropriate care. To that end, you should understand the different types of pain burn victims often experience.
Acute pain, according to Burn Injury Model Systems, is short-term, intense pain that often happens during a procedure like dressing changes or physical therapy.
Breakthrough pain is pain that comes and goes over the course of the day, often associated with wound healing, tightening of muscles, or repositioning.
Resting pain is “background” pain that is constantly present.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts for six months or longer after the wound heals.
Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to or re-growth of nerve endings in your skin.
Depending on each individual’s pain, different medications may be appropriate, including opiate pain medications, over-the-counter pain medications, anticonvulsants, sleep medications, and antidepressants. There are various other behavior approaches to help burn injury victims cope with their pain, ranging from relaxation techniques to hypnosis.
Whatever approach works best for each individual, it is important to know your options, and that often starts with assembling a competent and experienced support team. If you or someone you know suffered a burn injury as a result of negligence by another person or company, it would be worthwhile to discuss the situation with a personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected. An experienced lawyer can be a valuable member of a burn injury victim’s support team and help find the best multidisciplinary team to help you start down the road to recovery. If you suffered a burn injury because of the actions or inactions of another person or company and want to discuss your options, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss your issues and to help you find the best ways to get through such a life-altering injury.