Findings published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society identify chronic pain as a significant contributing factor in falls among older individuals, suggesting that pain management initiatives could help long-term care facilities improve resident safety. In the study, seniors who reported pain had a recurrent fall prevalence of 19.5%, as compared with 7.4% among those not reporting pain. Pain was further associated with a greater fear of falling, the investigators determined. For 18% of the study participants with pain, that fear was great enough to limit their daily activities. This figure was only about 4% for those without pain.
The authors hypothesize that pain contributes to falls for a variety of reasons, including muscles that are weaker due to disuse, altered gait, and cognitive functions that are disrupted due to “pain processing.” Medications used to treat pain also increase fall risk. The study involved interviews and assessments of 7,600 individuals located in assisted living and other residential care communities, but not nursing homes.
Read a news story about the study here.
The journal abstract is available here.