Posts Tagged ‘falls’

Chronic Pain and Falls

Saturday, January 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has connected some dots between chronic pain and falls, showing a strong association that heretofore has been underestimated.

In their report, the lead researcher Suzanne Leveille and her colleagues wrote: "Pain contributes to functional decline and muscle weakness, and is associated with mobility limitations that could predispose to fall." Their findings suggest that instead of simply viewing chronic pain as an unpleasant aspect of the aging process, people should acknowledge it as a serious risk factor for falls.

The authors of the study referred to several ways by which pain might contribute to falling:

  • The neuromuscular effects of pain may lead to weakness of the leg muscles;
  • One’s neuromuscular responses to a loss of balance may be slowed;
  • Altering one’s gait in an effort to diminish the pain may cause balance problems;
  • Chronic pain may constitute a major distraction, leaving one less alert to everyday hazards.
  • Approximately 750 subjects, ages 70-plus, took part in the study. They reported any pain they experienced and maintained a record of every fall they sustained. One thousand twenty-nine falls occurred over the 18-month follow-up period, with slightly more than half the subjects reporting at least one incident. The following results link chronic pain to an increased risk for falls:

  • At baseline, 24 percent of participants reported chronic pain in one joint; 40 percent in more than one joint. Those with pain in more than one joint were more likely to fall.
  • Persons with severe pain or pain that reduced their ability to perform ADLs (activities of daily living) were more likely to fall.
  • Persons who suffered from pain during any given month were more likely to endure a fall during the following month. While this association applied to all pain, it was particularly strong with regard to severe pain (77 percent increased risk).
  • Leveille recommends that older adults and their physicians discuss the connection between pain and falls with the goal of developing a personalized fall prevention plan, according to a report on the study by HealthDay. For many individuals, effective pain management might play an important role in decreasing the risk for falling.

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