Level of mobility limitations and falls status in persons with multiple sclerosis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 May;95(5):862-6. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2013.10.018. Epub 2013 Nov 8.


Objective: To investigate whether fall rates are constant across levels of mobility limitations.

Design: Secondary analysis of baseline assessments from a stratified randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Community.

Participants: Persons with multiple sclerosis (N=365) were divided into 5 groups based on the mobility section of the Guy's Neurological Disability Scale (GNDS): no walking impairment (n=82); impaired walking, no aid (n=87); unilateral support (n=76); bilateral support to walk (n=78); or occasional wheelchair user (n=42).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported fall history (ie, retrospective) in the preceding 3 months.

Results: One hundred twenty-four persons in the overall sample reported falling in the last 3 months (fall prevalence, 33.97%). Of the total sample, 17.8% reported 2 or more falls in the last 3 months. Chi-square analysis revealed a significant difference in the proportion of fallers across GNDS categories (χ(2)=42.64, P<.001). Post hoc analysis revealed that the group who walked with bilateral support had the greatest proportion of fallers (52.6%), while the group without walking impairment had the lowest proportion (15.9%). An examination of recurrent fallers as a function of group found that there were more recurrent fallers (70%) in the group that had a walking impairment but used no aid, relative to the other groups.

Conclusions: The current findings highlight that fall rates including recurrent fall prevalence are not uniform across mobility aid categories in persons with MS. Those using bilateral assistance for gait have the highest prevalence of fallers, and those with walking limitations and not yet using an aid had the greatest prevalence of multiple falls.

Keywords: Accidental falls; Mobility limitation assistive devices; Multiple sclerosis; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Walking / physiology*