Objective: Many patients with distal radius fracture (DRF) experience pain and disability after removal of the cast. The aim of this study was to investigate if photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) applied after cast removal provides an add-on effect to a home-based exercise program in rehabilitation after DRF. Methods: In this triple-blinded placebo-controlled trial, 50 patients with conservatively treated DRF were randomized to receive either active PBMT or placebo PBMT after cast removal in addition to a home-based exercise therapy program. The outcome measures were the Patient-Rated Wrist and Hand Evaluation (PRWHE) questionnaire, night pain (NP), and consumption of analgesic medication (AM) and were evaluated after cast removal at 4 (baseline), 8, 12, and 26 weeks after injury. NP and AM were also evaluated 7 weeks after injury (end of active/placebo PBMT). Results: There was a significant between-group difference in PRWHE scores in favor of active PBMT 8, 12, and 26 weeks after DRF. NP and consumption of AM were significantly lower in the active PBMT group from 7 to 26 weeks. There was a minimum clinically important improvement between the groups in favor of active PBMT in total score at 12 weeks, in pain subscore at 8, 12, and 26 weeks, and in disability subscore at 8 and 12 weeks. Conclusions: PBMT is safe and has long-term positive effect on pain and disability in DRF patients, when applied in combination with a home-based rehabilitation exercise program. Clinical Trial registration number: NCT03014024.
Keywords: distal radius fracture; low-level laser therapy; photobiomodulation therapy; physiotherapy; randomized controlled trial; wrist fracture.