December 1, 2009
By Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, BSN, HN-BC, MS-PREP student and PREP-AIRED blog moderator
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults (2005). Falls are also the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in elderly individuals. A new study suggests that persistent or chronic pain may be a risk factor for falls in the elderly. “No matter how it was assessed, seniors with chronic pain had a 1.5-fold increased risk of falling,” Suzanne G. Leveille, PhD, RN, of the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and colleagues reported in the November 25, 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers conducted the longitudinal study of 749 older adults, ages 70 +, from 2005-2008. Study findings suggested that patients who had chronic pain had higher rates of falls during follow-up than those who were pain-free (P<0.05).
In adjusted models, each measure of chronic pain was independently associated with the increased occurrence of falls. Compared with those without pain or those in the lowest tertiles of pain scores, the greatest risk for falls was observed in those who:
•Had two or more pain sites (RR 1.53, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.99)
•Were in the highest tertiles of pain severity (RR 1.53, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.08)
•Had interference with activities (RR 1.53, 95% CI 1.15 to 2.05)
Dr. Leveille suggested that paying closer attention to assessment of pain in older adults could decrease the risk of falls, contribute to better health outcomes, and help people to continue living actively and independently in the community."