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The importance of mindsets and feelings about fracture symptoms have been shown to be a key factor in recovery of musculoskeletal conditions.

Man with crutch © SHUTTERSTOCK

There is mounting evidence that mental health factors such as unhelpful thoughts or feelings of worry or despair can hinder recovery from injury and surgery. Historically, these have tended to be combined in the same measure, but this new study measures thoughts and feelings separately in order to show their association with comfort and capability after fracture and highlight that both aspects should be supported to aid recovery after injury.

Published in Injury, the study was a collaboration between researchers in the US, the Netherlands and from NDORMS at Oxford. Professor Steve Gwilym, part of the Trauma and Emergency Care Team at NDORMS said: "As clinicians our goal is to act in the best interests of our patients and support their recovery. As well as the magnitude of the injury itself it is important to recognise that unhelpful thoughts about activity or pain, or negative emotions can impact on a patient's recover from injury."

Mindset factors evolved during recovery according to the findings. Unhelpful thoughts about symptoms had a stronger association with levels of comfort and capability than questions measuring distress around symptoms. So, questions such as 'pain lets me know when to stop exercising so that I don't injure myself,' have a greater bearing than distress feelings such as 'I feel I can't stand it anymore.'

"The study backs up the association of thoughts and feelings with recovery in musculoskeletal illness that we have found in our previous research," said Steve. "The findings can be taken straight into the clinical setting and highlight the need to support the mental health of patients to facilitate and accelerate recovery."