Health Team

Study: Chronic pain contributes to falls among older adults

Posted November 24, 2009 6:05 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2009 7:54 p.m. EST

Falls are a leading cause of death among older people, and a new study found that chronic bone and joint pain is a key contributor to those accidents.

“Chronic pain was associated with an increased likelihood of falling in older adults,” said lead researcher Suzanne G. Leveille, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the University of Massachusetts.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Leveille asked 749 older adults to record pain levels suffered during a fall. During an 18 month period, 1,029 falls were reported.

Loretta Slover was among the older adults found to be living with chronic joint pain.

“You know, you are aware of it much too much, no matter what else you are supposed to be doing,” Slover said.

“We found that people that had multi-site pain were particularly at risk. They had a 50 percent increased likelihood of falling over a period of 18 months compared to their peers who had no pain,” Leveille said.

Researchers said this is the first study looking at the complexity of pain among older adults related to falls.

“Paying closer attention to the problems, such as pain and falls, could result in better health and help people to continue to live actively and independently in the community,” Leveille explained.

Researchers also urge the elderly to discuss chronic discomfort problems with family and health care professionals to determine better ways to manage pain.