Multisite pain and self-reported falls in older people: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Victoria K. Welsh, Lorna E. Clarson, Christian D. Mallen, John McBeth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Multisite pain and falls are common in older people, and isolated studies have identified multisite pain as a potential falls risk factor. This study aims to synthesise published literature to further explore the relationship between multisite pain and falls and to quantify associated risks. Methods: Bibliographic databases were searched from inception to December 2017. Studies of community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and older with a multisite pain measurement and a falls outcome were included. Two reviewers screened articles, undertook quality assessment and extracted data. Random-effects meta-analysis was used to pool the effect estimate (odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (95%CI)). Heterogeneity was assessed by I 2 ; sensitivity analyses used adjusted risk estimates and exclusively longitudinal studies. Results: The search identified 49,577 articles, 3145 underwent abstract review, 22 articles were included in the systematic review and 18 were included in the meta-analysis. The unadjusted pooled OR of 1.82 (95%CI 1.55-2.13), demonstrating that those reporting multisite pain are at increased risk of falls, is supported by the adjusted pooled OR of 1.56 (95%CI 1.39-1.74). Multisite pain predicts future falls risk (OR = 1.74 (95%CI 1.57-1.93)). For high-quality studies, those reporting multisite pain have double the odds of a future fall compared to their pain-free counterparts. Conclusion: Multisite pain is associated with an increased future falls risk in community-dwelling older people. Increasing public awareness of multisite pain as a falls risk factor and advising health and social care professionals to identify older people with multisite pain to signpost accordingly will enable timely falls prevention strategies to be implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Early online date22 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Falls prevention
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Public health


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