To What Degree Do Pain-coping Strategies Affect Joint Stiffness and Functional Outcomes in Patients with Hand Fractures?

Young Hak Roh, Jung Ho Noh, Joo Han Oh, Hyun Sik Gong, Goo Hyun Baek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with hand fractures often have pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints of the hand, which may lead them to protect their hands, resulting in more stiffness and in delayed recovery. However, the effects of pain-coping strategies and catastrophization (the tendency to expect the worst to occur when pain is present, an approach that can be thought of as the opposite of “coping”) on functional recovery after hand fractures have not been investigated in depth. Questions/purposes: Are preoperative catastrophization and anxiety in patients with hand fractures associated with (1) decreased grip strength; (2) decreased range of motion; and (3) increased disability at 3 and 6 months after surgical treatment for a hand fracture? Secondarily, we asked if there are other patient and injury factors that are associated with these outcomes at 3 and 6 months. Methods: A total of 93 patients with surgically treated hand fractures were enrolled in this prospective study. Preoperative assessments measured coping strategies evaluated by measuring catastrophic thinking with the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and pain anxiety with the Pain Anxiety Symptom Scale. At 3 and 6 months postoperatively, grip strength, total active range of motion, and disability (Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand score) were assessed. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify patient demographic, injury, and coping skills factors that accounted for outcomes of strength, motion, and disability. Results: Decreased grip strength was associated with catastrophic thinking (beta = −1.29 [95% confidence interval, −1.67 to −0.89], partial R2 = 11%, p < 0.001) and anxiety (beta = −0.83 [−1.16 to −0.50], partial R2 = 7%, p = 0.007) at 3 months, but by 6 months, only anxiety (beta = −0.74 [−1.04 to −0.44], partial R2 = 7%, p = 0.010) remained an important factor. Decreased total active range of motion was associated with pain catastrophizing (beta = −0.63 [−0.90 to −0.36], partial R2 = 6 %, p = 0.024) and anxiety (beta = −0.28 [−0.42 to −0.14], partial R2 = 3%, p = 0.035) at 3 months but not at 6 months. Similarly, increased disability was associated with pain catastrophizing (beta = 1.09 [1.39–0.79], partial R2 = 12%, p < 0.001) and anxiety (beta = 0.93 [1.21–0.65], partial R2 = 11%, p = 0.001) at 3 months; these factors failed to be associated for 6-month outcomes. Conclusions: Preoperative poor coping skills as measured by high catastrophization and anxiety were associated with a weaker grip strength, decreased range of motion, and increased disability after surgical treatment for a hand fracture at 3 months. However, poor coping skills did not show persistent effects beyond 6 months. More research may be needed to show interventions to improve coping skills will enhance treatment outcome in patients after acute hand fractures. Level of Evidence: Level III, prognostic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3484-3490
Number of pages7
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015


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