Study: Falls more common among older adults with pain

fallsRecurrent falls were more than twice as common in elderly people suffering from pain than those who were not, according to the results of a recent study.

The article, published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that 19.5 percent of adults 65 and older who reported bothersome pain in the last month also reported falling at least twice in the past year. This compares to 7.4 percent of individuals without pain who reported falls.

The study authors also found that balance/coordination problems and fear of falling increased with the number of specific pain sites reported by participants. For example, roughly 11 percent of participants with pain in one place on their bodies reported problems with balance or coordination that limited activity. At the other end of the spectrum, nearly half (41.4 percent) of participants with four or more pain sites reported balance or coordination issues that limited activity.

The findings strengthen the call for pain management strategies to be developed and integrated into multifaceted fall prevention programs, the study authors write. The authors stop short of assigning a causal relationship between chronic pain and recurrent falls, though these results do confirm findings of past researchers on this topic. The study authors interviewed 7,601 Americans 65 and older, a figure described as “representative of the 35.3 million Medicare beneficiaries living in the United States.”

The study authors say that past studies have shown chronic pain to be associated with falls, though no previous work have sought to characterize the extent of falls-related outcomes according to pain status. Chronic pain might predispose older persons to falling through multiple pathways, the study authors write, including fear of movement, lack of physical activity and muscle weakness.

Overall, falls among the elderly are a source of serious concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite falls as the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among Americans 65 and older. In 2012, 2.4 million nonfatal falls among this age group were treated in emergency departments, and more than 722,000 of these patients were hospitalized. In 2011, about 22,900 members of this demographic died from unintentional fall injuries.

Pain itself affects more Americans that diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to the National Institutes of Health, and is cited as the most common reason Americans access the health care system. Approximately 76.2 million Americans, or one in every four, have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours.

Effective pain management can be a challenge for any physician, though the YouScript Personalized Prescribing system can help. With the ability to detect genetic variations that can influence how patients respond to pain medications, YouScript can help doctors find the right medication and dose for each patient. Learn more about the system here.