Regions Hospital Doctors & Specialties Nationally-recognized Burn Center Exercise and therapy after a burn injury

Exercise following a burn injury is an extremely important part of treatment. The goal of exercise is to return to a person’s prior level of independence. Occupational and Physical Therapists work with patients to design individualized exercise programs. The exercises and activities include cardiovascular and strengthening exercises, stretching to prevent contractures of the joints, and play or leisure activities. It is important to begin regaining independence in all daily activities such as: eating, getting dressed, grooming, bathing and toileting, getting onto a chair, bed, toilet, bath tub/shower or into a car, and walking up and down stairs. Therapists help people practice these tasks so they can become independent.

One of the most common complaints after a burn injury is that it seems like the skin feels tight and doesn’t want to move. This feeling is real and normal. This is because as the burned skin heals, it shrinks and becomes tight and harder to move. This is very frustrating! The burned skin is tightest and stiffest in the morning right after waking up. This is because when we sleep, we are not exercising or moving and the burned or grafted skin has a chance to shrink and tighten. It is very important to work on exercises every day and especially every morning after getting up. This will help stretch out the tight skin so that moving the rest of the day will be easier.

Common burn therapy exercises could include:

Head & face

Making funny faces.


Looking to each side

Looking up and down

Watching TV with the neck stretched over a pillow

Arms & hands

Jumping jacks

Lifting weights

Making fists

Practice writing

Holding a fork, spoon or knife

Holding and bouncing a small ball


Jumping jacks

Lifting weights

Walking or running

Riding a bike