Balance assessment in patients with peripheral arthritis: applicability and reliability of some clinical assessments



Background and Purpose

Many individuals with peripheral arthritis blame decreased balance as a reason for limiting their physical activity. It is therefore important to assess and improve their balance. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the applicability and the reliability of some clinical balance assessment methods for people with arthritis and various degrees of disability.


To examine the applicability and reliability of balance tests, 65, 19 and 22 patients, respectively, with peripheral arthritis participated in sub-studies investigating the applicability, inter-rater reliability and test–retest stability of the following methods: walking on a soft surface, walking backwards, walking in a figure-of-eight, the balance sub-scale of the Index of Muscle Function (IMF), the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test and the Berg balance scale.


For patients with moderate disability walking in a figure-of-eight was found to be the most discriminative test, whereas ceiling effects were found for the Berg balance scale. Patients with severe disability were generally able to perform the TUG test and the Berg Balance Scale without ceiling effects. Inter-rater reliability was moderate to high and test–retest stability was satisfactory for all methods assessed.


Applicable and reliable assessment methods of clinical balance were identified for individuals with moderate and severe disability, whereas more discriminative tests need to be developed for those with limited disability. Copyright © 2001 Whurr Publishers Ltd.