Methods Adults referred to community-based physiotherapy with distal arm pain were randomised to: advice to remain active while awaiting physiotherapy (typically delivered after 6–8 weeks); advice to rest while awaiting physiotherapy, or immediate treatment. Intention-to-treat analysis determined whether the probability of recovery at 26 weeks was greater among the active advice group, compared with those advised to rest and/or among those receiving immediate versus usually timed physiotherapy.
Results 538 of 1663 patients invited between February 2012 and February 2014 were randomised (active=178; rest=182; immediate physiotherapy=178). 81% provided primary outcome data, and complete recovery was reported by 60 (44%), 46 (32%) and 53 (35%). Those advised to rest experienced a lower probability of recovery (OR: 0.54; 95% CI 0.32 to 0.90) versus advice to remain active. However, there was no benefit of immediate physiotherapy (0.64; 95% CI 0.39 to 1.07).
Conclusions Among patients awaiting physiotherapy for distal arm pain, advice to remain active results in better 26-week functional outcome, compared with advice to rest. Also, immediate physiotherapy confers no additional benefit in terms of disability, compared with physiotherapy delivered after 6–8 weeks waiting time. These findings question current guidance for the management of distal arm pain.
- Fibromyalgis/pain syndromes
- Health services research
- Physcial therapy