When the skin is burned, it stimulates the receptors in the skin which respond by causing instant pain. In third-degree and fourth-degree burns that damage the nerves, patients might not experience pain. But exposed, undamaged nerve endings surrounding the burn will cause pain throughout the course of treatment. Pain can overwhelm a burn victim’s life, but excellent pain remedies and burn injury management can help the patient cope.
The more you understand your pain and how to relay what you are experiencing with your doctor, the better able your doctor will be to treat your pain and help you manage it accordingly.
What types of pain accompany burn injuries?
Each burn patient’s discomfort and pain are unique; two people with similar injuries might have completely different pain levels. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center explains that, generally, burn patients experience several kinds of pain:
- Acute pain: This is the intense, short-term pain you experience in the initial stage of the burn, and during procedures such as changing your wound dressing.
- Breakthrough pain: This pain comes and goes in waves throughout the day. The natural wound healing process and contractures are often the cause of this type of pain.
- Resting pain: This is the dull, constant “background” pain that burn injury victims experience, which never really lets up.
- Chronic pain: Pain is “chronic” when it has lasted for more than six months after the burn wounds have healed.
- Neuropathic pain: Neuropathic pain, which can be intense or dull, is an aching that is hard to pinpoint. It is often the result of damage and the regeneration of nerve endings in the skin.
What kinds of treatments are available for pain symptoms?
A pain management plan for a burn injury will usually entail both medication and behavioral approaches. Below are just a few of the measures your doctor may recommend.
- Pharmacological: The medications your doctor prescribes will depend on the type and severity of the pain you are experiencing. Options usually include opioids, anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-depressants, ketamine, benzodiazepines, lidocaine, and sleep medications. Doctors sometimes use surgical procedures to address the issues (like contractures) that are causing pain, as well.
- Non-pharmacological: Pain is much more manageable when doctors use behavioral approaches in conjunction with medication. Your doctor may recommend multidisciplinary methods such as psychology techniques (and cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation, and distraction), pressure garments, nutrition, monitoring the pace of your activities (adequate exercise without overstraining yourself), and somatic relaxation techniques (deep breathing, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation).
How do I explain my pain to my doctor to ensure the best treatment?
You should try to explain your pain to your doctor in as much detail as possible so she will be able to identify treatments that will provide you with the most benefit. You can use the terms listed above (acute, breakthrough, etc.) to describe your pain, and some doctors ask you to rate the intensity of your pain on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being pain-free and 10 being excruciating.
Try keeping a pain journal to document your symptoms and share it with your doctor. In each entry, include details such as your pain level, the duration of the pain, when it occurred, how it felt (throbbing, stinging, itching, aching, etc.), how it affected your emotions, how it affected your sleep, and how it limited your ability to do things. If you notice any activities or treatments that improve or worsen your pain, share that with your doctor, too.
What complications should I be aware of that might affect pain levels?
Complications such as contractures, infection, and nerve damage can worsen pain for burn injury patients, and lead to neuropathy and chronic pain. As many as 52 percent of burn patients develop chronic pain, according to a study in the Brazilian medical journal, Revista Brasileira de Anestesiologia.
Also, the amount of pain burn patients experience may lead to long-term post-traumatic stress and general emotional distress, reports the International Society for Burn Injuries. Victims should be proactive in their emotional care to address these types of psychological distress.
The cost associated with managing pain and treating burns can skyrocket quickly. That’s not to mention the wage losses associated with being out of work during recovery. Call us at 844-549-8774 to speak with a lawyer referral specialist who can connect you with a lawyer in your area to discuss your right to file a claim.