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Pain in the back tied to an increased fall risk for older men

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– Back pain is the most common form of pain in older men complain of, and it could indicate a greater risk of falling, even for people with no other disabilities, according to a recent U.S. study.

“We know that older people with back pain have poor physical function, such as reduced strength and difficulty rising from a chair,” said lead author Lynn Marshall, an associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

“The pain is not just a traditional fall risk factor, but our study showed that the back pain is a risk factor for fall in older men,” Marshall told Reuters Health by e-mail.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on nearly 6,000 men over the age of 65 who live at home. Between 2000 and 2002, the participants completed baseline questionnaires about pain in the back, or they had experienced in the past 12 months, where the pain was, how often it happened and how serious it was.

The following year, the men also reported for the four months about whether they had fallen and how often.

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The researchers also collected information from the men, medication use, dizziness, disabilities, and other parts of the body experiencing pain, to take account of the influence of these factors on the risk of a fall.

Slightly more than two-thirds of the men reported having had back pain in the baseline questionnaire. Among these, 62 percent had pain only in the back, 9 percent reported the pain as severe, 20 percent suffer from their pain “all or most of the time” and 30 percent are limited in their activities because of the pain.

During the following year, 1,388 men – a quarter of the group fell at least once, and 632 men had multiple falls, according to the results in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

The men with back pain were 30 percent more likely than those without to fall several times, although the risk of fall only once was the same between the groups.

The risk of a fall was higher for people with pain in two different parts of the back, however, and still higher for those with three or more sites of pain, in comparison with those with no pain in the back.

People with more severe pain in the back or pain that occurred more often were also at greater risk for falls.

“And, in particular, injuries from falls are a common source of disability and functional decline in older persons, but be prevented by means of relatively cheap interventions,” said Dr. Thomas Gill, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Gill noted that the advantage of the security adjustments in the home, such as tacking down rugs and adding grab bars in the bathroom can be useful for people with an increased risk of falling.

“Physical activity and exercise, particularly focused on walking, balance and muscle strength, are beneficial,” he said by e-mail, adding that the right shoes is important.

Minimizing the number of medicines that can affect the brain, high blood pressure, or it can also be useful to prevent falls, Gill.

Falls are the largest cause of death and injury in older Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research does not have to prove that pain in the back causes. But the results are in line with similar findings of an increased fall risk among AMERICAN women with back pain, the authors note.

It is possible that the fear of falling, or cognitive problems related to the back pain can put of the link, the researchers write, but more studies are needed to understand the connection.

“The result, if we lose our balance and failure to restore it,” Marshall noted. “To avoid falls, we should be aware of both the circumstances that can lead to the loss of balance and the conditions that prevent the regain of the balance sheet.”

Marshall recommends talking with a doctor about any concerns about balance or falling, and that people are asking how they best fit their homes to avoid falls.

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