Graded Motor Imagery for Women at Risk for Developing Type I CRPS Following Closed Treatment of Distal Radius Fractures

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    University of Minnesota
Updated on 24 March 2022
pain disorder
pain syndromes
complex regional pain syndrome


Nearly 2 out of 10 women will sustain a distal forearm fracture throughout their lifespan.Recent longitudinal studies illustrate that as many as 1/3 of all persons who undergo closed reduction and casting for distal radius fractures (DRF) go on to develop type 1 complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Graded motor imagery (i.e., motor imagery and mirror therapy), a movement representation technique, is strongly supported in the literature as a treatment of CRPS and has recently been suggested as a potential strategy to prevent its onset. Other complications include disability, wrist/forearm tightness and sensorimotor changes.

The investigators propose that an early intervention protocol which includes graded motor imagery (GMI) will improve the pain, functional and upper limb sensorimotor outcomes of persons following closed reduction and casting of DRF relative to a standard of care intervention.


Distal radius fractures (DRF) account for nearly one-fifth of all fractures in older adults with women sustaining them at a rate of 5 to 1 relative to their male counterparts. The majority of DRF occur as a result of low impact injuries to the wrist with the hand being outstretched and are most often managed via closed treatment and cast immobilization The aftereffects of these injuries include pain, distal upper limb immobility, distal sensorimotor changes, hand weakness, edema, and type I complex CRPS development. Women, those sustaining low-force injuries, and those who undergo closed treatment and cast immobilization of the DRF, are at increased risk for developing type I CRPS. Given that alterations in the brain's somatosensory strip likely influence CRPS development, a newer intervention, graded motor imagery, is being used to restore the affected limbs cortical representation to its typical state. Beyond pain reduction, the implications of this type of approach also include restoring sensorimotor function to the affected limb. Evidence supports that these interventions can impact CRPS symptoms as well as motor function but only after they've developed. To date, there is no literature exploring how these techniques, specifically graded motor imagery, can be applied to prevent or mitigate the aforementioned aftereffects of DRF in women.

To this end the investigators propose to pilot a 6-week randomized comparative effectiveness trial, where the modified graded motor imagery program + standard of care group is compared to a standard of care (SOC) control group. Immediately following cast immobilization, the intervention group and control group will each participate in one 1-hr and three 30-minute clinic-based sessions and 15 minute home programs three times daily. Blinded assessments will occur at baseline, 3 weeks, cast removal, and one and 3 months after cast removal and will include pain, sensorimotor, edema, and CRPS diagnostic outcomes.

The project's aims are to: 1) determine the feasibility of recruiting, enrolling, treating, and following participants and 2) determine if those who participate in a GMI and SOC hand therapy program have differing pain, function, and counts of CRPS diagnoses when compared to those who receive only the SOC. The investigators hypothesize 1) that the project will be feasible to carry out on a larger scale and 2) that an early GMI will improve the pain, functional and upper limb sensorimotor outcomes of persons with closed treatment of DRF relative to a standard of care intervention.

Condition Musculoskeletal Pain, Fractures, Closed, Distal Radius Fracture, Complex Regional Pain Syndromes
Treatment Standard Care, Motor Representation Techniques
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02957240
SponsorUniversity of Minnesota
Last Modified on24 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Women 55 years or older who have received closed treatment of distal radius fractures

Exclusion Criteria

Central nervous system disorders (e.g., Brain injury, Spinal Cord Injury, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis)
Surgical fixation of fracture
Non english speaking
Concomitant ipsilateral injuries (i..e., BBFF)
Other injuries to the affected limb interfering with baseline affected limb function
Cognitive disorders which would preclude from following the testing commands and home program participation
Conditions of the contralateral upper limb which would result in painful and markedly limited active hand, wrist and forearm motion as this may impact the brain's ability to perceive safe and proficient movement during mirror therapy
Visual impairments resulting in the inability to participate in GMI components
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