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Chronic Pain Trips Up Seniors
Date:11/24/2009

Discomfort contributes to the falls that plague older adults, study finds,,

TUESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Falls are a leading cause of death among older Americans, and new research confirms that chronic pain contributes to those accidents.

"Pain contributes to functional decline and muscle weakness, and is associated with mobility limitations that could predispose to fall," the study authors wrote.

"Chronic pain, no matter how we measured it, was associated with an increased likelihood of falls," said lead researcher Suzanne G. Leveille, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the University of Massachusetts. "Pain has not traditionally been thought of as a risk factor for falls."

Health-care costs associated with falls account for more than $19 billion each year, but the role pain plays in those falls was not explored before, the authors said.

Based on these findings, Leveille thinks that pain should be a factor in assessing the risk for falls. She also said effective pain management might reduce the risk of falls.

Patients should discuss pain and falling with their doctor and work out a plan to prevent falling, she added.

For the study, published in the Nov. 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Leveille's team asked 749 people, aged 70 and older, about any pain they suffered. The participants also kept a record of each time they fell.

At the start of the study, 40 percent of the participants said they suffered from chronic pain in more than one joint, and 24 percent had pain in only one joint.

During 18 months of follow-up, there were 1,029 falls. More than half (55 percent) reported falling at least once.

Those people who had pain in more than one joint were more likely to fall, compared with people who reported no pain or minimum pain. Severe pain and pain that affected participants' ability to do
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