Healing skin grafts and recovering burns can be particularly sensitive, known as hypersensitivity. This means normal sensations such as touch, the feeling of clothes on the skin and even air on the skin can cause extreme discomfort and altered feeling.

Doing a program of desensitisation can help normalise the way the body responds to touch and other normal sensations, such as the feeling of movement or clothes on the skin. This may involve practising stroking, brushing, tapping and massaging the area affected. Your therapist will be able to guide you on what exercises to do.

Applying ‘normal’ sensations to the affected area, such as touch and massage, will gradually normalize nerve impulses and improve the hypersensitivity.

It is important you persist with the exercises as it may take several months to improve. However, if the affected area is not touched, massaged or desensitised with these exercises the unpleasant sensations are likely to continue and may worsen.

As a result of your burn injury you may experience the following:

  • Hypersensitivity - When you perceive the lightest touch as pain. For example, ‘shooting’ or ‘tingling’ or ‘stabbing’ sensations.
  • Spontaneous hyperaesthesia - Pins and needles.
  • Hypoesthisia - Reduced sensation.
  • Reduced sweating over the affected area.

To decrease this hypersensitivity it is important that you expose the affected area within your daily life.  You may feel like protecting the area, but for the best result the sensitive area must be bombarded with different textures and sensations to make it feel ‘normal’.

Below are 4 exercises to help reduce the sensitivity:

Do this regime at least 3 times a day for a period of 10-15 mins.

  1. Deep Massage - Massage the scar tissue surrounding area deeply in circular motions. This should be done firmly with the use of moisturising cream such as E-45 / Diprobase.  DO this for 5-10 minutes at a time, for a total of 1 hour a day.
  2. Percussion - Tap your finger/thumb on the table top or use your opposite hand to tap against the sensitive area.
  3. Stroking – Using different textures such as towel, sandpaper, tissues, cotton wool or the texture stick made for you. Rub over the sensitive area with small circular movements. Start with a difficult one for a few circles, swap to an easier one for 1-2 mins and then go back to the difficult one for 1 minute.  Try different textures.
  4. Immersion Massage - Using rice, lentils, cornflakes or anything you can think of. Fill a medium sized container and using circular motions immerse the sensitive area.  You can bury small objects in the mixture and search for them with the affected finger /s. 


Please discontinue this programme and contact the Burns Therapy department if any of the following occur:

  • Swelling, change in skin colour.
  • Redness, soreness or breakdown of skin.

Burns Therapy

Please contact your therapist if you have any concerns or questions.

Contact information

Burns and Plastics Therapy
Therapy Department
369 Fulham Road
SW10 9NH