Older adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain are at increased risk of recurrent falls and the brief pain inventory could help identify those most at risk




Chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) and falls are common among community-dwelling older adults. The study aims were: (i) to investigate the relationship between CMP and any falls (≥1), single falls and recurrent falls (≥2) in community-dwelling older adults; and (ii) to determine the discriminative validity of the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) to differentiate between non-fallers and (a) any and (b) recurrent fallers.


A cross-sectional study involving 295 community-dwelling participants (mean age 77.5 ± 8.1 years, 66.4% female) was carried out. CMP was assessed and classified as none (comparison group), single and multisite (≥2). The BPI severity and interference subscales were used, and falls were recorded over 12 months. Data were analyzed with logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic curves (ROC).


Over half of the participants (154/295, 52.2%) had CMP (41.6% single and 58.4% multisite pain). Participants with CMP were at increased risk of recurrent falls (OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.03–4.88), and this risk was highest in those with multisite CMP (OR 3.43, CI 1.34–8.65). The BPI severity subscale showed good discriminative ability to differentiate between recurrent and non-fallers with an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.731 (95% CI 0.635–0.826); a mean score of 5.1 had a sensitivity of 93.3% and specificity of 56.7%. The AUC for the BPI interference subscale was 0.724 (95% CI 0.630–0.818), and a cut-off score of 4.6 had a sensitivity of 84.4% and specificity of 57.8%


Older adults with multisite CMP are at greatest risk of recurrent falls. In clinical settings, the BPI could prove useful to discriminate between recurrent and non-fallers. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2015; 15: 881–888.