Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 3-2011


Distal radius fracture (DRF) is the most common fracture and usually occurs as a result of a fall. Most patients recover following DRF with minimal residual pain or disability; however, a small subset of patients continue to experience pain and disability even one year after the injury. Currently, there are no practice guidelines for early identification and treatment of patients who are potentially at greater risk of developing these adverse outcomes. As a result, hand therapy management of patients following DRF does not incorporate screening of these at-risk patients. The objective of this paper is to apply constructs from learned helplessness and cognitive-behavioural models of chronic pain in assessing the psychosocial risk profile of patients following DRF. We have also integrated key findings derived from studies addressing personal and life-style factors in assessing this risk profile. This framework is proposed as a basis to categorize patients as higher or lower psychosocial risk for developing chronic pain and disability following DRF. We outline a model depicting the RACE approach (Reducing pain, Activating, Cognitive reshaping, Empowering) towards the management of patients following DRF. The model suggests that patients with minimal psychosocial risk factors are managed based on their injury profile and those with higher psychosocial risk are treated with the risk-based RACE approach. Using a biopsychosocial RACE approach to prognosis and treatment, hand therapy intervention can be customized for patients recovering from DRF. In future, researchers can conduct clinical trials to compare the RACE-based treatment approach to routine hand therapy in mitigating the risk of chronic pain and disability in patients with elevated risk profile for adverse outcomes following DRF.


This is the peer-reviewed manuscript accepted for publication in Hand Therapy (doi: 10.1258/ht.2010.010022). The Version of Record is available from the publisher at Copyright © 2013 The British Association of Hand Therapists Ltd.