Managing Pain After Burn Injury

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By Dr. Sanjay Sharma , Pain Management

Burn related injuries are often one of the most difficult types of pain to manage. This is because burns destroy skin tissue much more than a similar injury caused by cuts on the skin. The pain can be quite intense even with injuries that are not that severe.

Types of Burn Injuries-

Generally, the three types of burn injuries are:

  1. First-degree burns: These are comparatively mild and generally results in lesser pain. Primary symptoms exhibited are with damage to the epidermis i.e. the skin’s outer layer which tends to become reddened.
  2. Second-degree burns: These are partial thickness burns which affect the epidermis as well as the dermis. The dermis is the layer of skin occurring below the epidermis. Second-degree burns cause redness, swelling, pain and blistering.
  3. Third-degree burns: Also known as full thickness burns, the impact is felt in the deeper tissues that lie under the dermis. The burns generally result in blackened or white skin which is charred and numb.

Primary Causes-

Burns are generally caused due to exposure to dry and wet forms of fire, radiation, heated objects, chemicals, etc. Thermal forms of burns are the most common form, resulting from contact with flames, steam, hot metals etc.

Managing the Pain-

The pain which occurs after a burn can be considered as one of the most prolonged and intense forms of pain. Treatment of the pain is very important as the pain can affect important aspects of your life such as sleep, mood, ability to work as well as the quality of life. Pain resulting from burns is complex and requires careful assessment by your doctor so that the best form of treatment is utilized. A multidisciplinary approach would be required which might include both medicinal as well as non-medicinal treatments along with a team of specialists like physical therapists or psychologists, who work alongside your doctor.

Area doesn’t matter, intensity does…

It should be noted that the severity of the pain is not always associated with the size or seriousness of the burn injury. For example, small burns can be extremely painful while some larger burns may not be as painful.


The medicinal approach to managing the pain includes usage of Over-The-Counter pain medications like ibuprofen, anti-depressants, sleep medications, etc. Along with medicinal treatment, the behavioural approach should be utilized. This includes various relaxation techniques, hypnosis as well as appropriate pacing of daily activities. In severe cases, multiple surgeries are required to graft skin as the affected area could become infected and that will have its own extensive form of treatment will much stronger pain relief medication administered through intravenous forms such as injections or drips.