Chronic pain can be more dangerous than previously thought, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Division of Primary Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have found that people with chronic pain have greater chances of suffering a fall.
Suzanne Leveille, PhD, RN, who conducted the research while a member of the Division of Primary Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), said: "It's clear that pain is not just a normal part of aging and that pain is often undertreated in older adults.
"Our findings showed that older adults who reported chronic musculoskeletal pain in two or more locations - mainly in the joints of the arms and legs - as well as individuals who reported more severe pain or pain that interfered with daily activities were more likely to experience a fall than other individuals."
Data gathered as part of MOBILIZE Boston (Maintenance of Balance, Independent Living, Intellect and Zest in the Elderly), was read as part of the study.
The data included interviews of 749 adults over the age of 70 between September 2005 and January 2008.
The details of their health conditions were recorded too.
After 18 months, the number of falls the participants had suffered was recorded.
Leveille said: "At the beginning of the study, 40 percent of the participants reported experiencing chronic pain in more than one joint area and 24 percent reported chronic pain in a single joint.
"During the 18-month study period, the 749 participants reported a total of 1,029 falls, with more than half the participants falling at least once during this period."
It was noted that the participants who experienced chronic pain in two or more joints had a 50 percent greater risk of falling.
Leveille concluded: "Our results suggest that pain should be added to the list of risk factors for falls, as persons who have chronic pain in two or more joints, and those who have moderate to severe pain or disabling pain, are at significantly higher risk.
"Assessment and management of chronic pain is a key part of health care for many older adults."
The study has been published in the November 25 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.