This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Sexuality and Intimacy After Burn Injury. Ashley Overturf, OTR, discusses the effects of scar management and sexual intimacy after burn injury.

Ashley Overturf, O.T.

North Texas Burn Rehabilitation Model System

Parkland Memorial Hospital

So one of the ways that we help talk about sexual intimacy is first and foremost, sort of anticipating what they might want to do in the future. So as a therapist, we’re really looking at scar management and sort of stretching and prolonged positioning. Often talking about ways to sort of prevent scar bands from forming first in the immediate stages of healing.

For example, if you have a scar, say, in the armpit. If we’re not maintaining our arms out, oftentimes we put pillows or splints to sort of move the arm away from the body to create space in the armpit. And if we don't create that space, then what often happens is that scar band actually pulls in.

And so you get stuck or contracted with your arm down towards your side. Now that creates a lot of problems for dressing, for keeping clean under your armpit, and then also for sex.

Most often people want to be able to move their arms and hold their partner, or to support themselves by moving their arms away and being able to push weight through their arms. And you can imagine that if your arms were stuck to your side, this becomes an issue.

So from a therapy standpoint, we often hear we don't want to wear those splints or those splints are uncomfortable. And the idea is not really to make a splint that is uncomfortable, but rather to change, we call it the position of comfort.

So most often we rest with our arms down to our side and that is a position that scars form, right? So in order to create space, for example, again, in the armpit, then we’ll pull the arms away which then creates discomfort in the short-term, but the long-term gains is valuable, very valuable.

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