Preventing Contractures in Deep Partial-Thickness Neck Burns: Acute Phase Interventions

Caring for clients with burn injuries demands a multifaceted approach that encompasses various phases of care. When a client presents with a deep partial-thickness injury to the posterior neck, preventing contractures associated with this injury is a top priority during the acute phase of burn care. In this article, we will explore the most important intervention that nurses should employ to mitigate the risk of contractures in clients with deep partial-thickness neck burns.

Understanding Deep Partial-Thickness Neck Burns

Burn injuries can vary in depth and severity, with deep partial-thickness burns affecting not only the top layer of skin (epidermis) but also the deeper layer (dermis). When these injuries occur on the posterior neck, special attention is required due to the potential for contractures.

Contractures in Burn Injuries

A contracture refers to the shortening of connective tissues, including skin, muscles, and tendons, leading to limited joint movement. In burn injuries, contractures can develop due to various factors, including tissue damage, scarring, and inadequate rehabilitation. Preventing contractures is crucial, as they can significantly impair the client’s range of motion and quality of life.

The Most Important Intervention: Early Mobilization and Range of Motion Exercises

When a client sustains a deep partial-thickness injury to the posterior neck, the most critical intervention during the acute phase is early mobilization and the implementation of range of motion exercises. Here’s why this intervention is paramount:

  1. Preventing Scar Formation: Early mobilization and range of motion exercises help maintain the flexibility of the skin and underlying tissues. This prevents excessive scar formation, which can contribute to contractures.
  2. Maintaining Joint Function: The neck is a highly mobile area, and contractures in this region can severely limit the client’s ability to move their head and neck comfortably. Early mobilization and exercises help preserve joint function and prevent stiffness.
  3. Minimizing Muscle Atrophy: Inactivity can lead to muscle weakness and atrophy, which can exacerbate contracture development. Encouraging the client to perform gentle exercises can help maintain muscle strength.
  4. Enhancing Circulation: Proper circulation is vital for tissue healing. Mobilization and exercises promote blood flow to the affected area, supporting the healing process and preventing complications.

Implementing Early Mobilization and Range of Motion Exercises

When applying this crucial intervention, nurses should:

  1. Assess the Client’s Range of Motion: Begin by assessing the client’s current range of motion in the neck and surrounding areas. This baseline assessment will guide the development of a personalized exercise plan.
  2. Collaborate with Physical Therapy: Involve physical therapists early in the client’s care. They can provide expertise in designing a safe and effective range of motion exercise program tailored to the client’s specific needs.
  3. Educate the Client: Explain the importance of early mobilization and range of motion exercises to the client. Encourage their active participation and provide clear instructions on how to perform the exercises safely.
  4. Implement a Regular Exercise Schedule: Ensure that the client adheres to a consistent exercise schedule. Depending on the severity of the injury, exercises may need to be performed multiple times a day.
  5. Monitor Progress: Continuously assess the client’s progress and adjust the exercise plan as needed. Document changes in range of motion and any signs of improvement or decline.
  6. Use Assistive Devices: Depending on the client’s condition, assistive devices such as cervical collars or supports may be beneficial in maintaining proper neck alignment and facilitating exercises.
  7. Pain Management: Address pain and discomfort that may arise during exercises. Pain management strategies, including prescribed medications or alternative therapies, should be considered to ensure the client’s comfort during rehabilitation.


In the acute phase of care for clients with deep partial-thickness neck burns, preventing contractures is a primary concern. Early mobilization and the implementation of range of motion exercises are the most critical interventions to address this concern. These actions promote skin and tissue flexibility, maintain joint function, prevent excessive scar formation, and enhance circulation. Collaboration with physical therapists, client education, regular monitoring, and the use of assistive devices are essential components of a comprehensive approach to preventing contractures in clients with deep partial-thickness neck burns. By prioritizing these interventions, nurses can contribute significantly to the client’s recovery and long-term quality of life.


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