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. 2020 Mar;101(3):418-425.
doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2019.09.010. Epub 2019 Oct 18.

Chronic Pain Characteristics and Gait in Older Adults: The MOBILIZE Boston Study II

Free PMC article

Chronic Pain Characteristics and Gait in Older Adults: The MOBILIZE Boston Study II

Elisa F Ogawa et al. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. .
Free PMC article


Objective: To investigate a proposed cognitively-mediated pathway whereby pain contributes to gait impairments by acting as a distractor in community-living older adults.

Design: A cross-sectional study of a population-based cohort of older adults.

Setting: Urban and suburban communities in a large metropolitan area.

Participants: Community-living participants (N=302) 70 years and older recruited from a previous population-based cohort.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Gait parameters including gait speed, stride length, double support and swing characteristics, and variability were assessed under single- and dual-task conditions involving cognitive challenges (eg, counting backward). A joint pain questionnaire assessed pain distribution in the back and major joints. We examined pain-gait relationships using multivariable linear regression and bootstrapping mediation procedures.

Results: Forty-three percent of participants had pain in 2 or more musculoskeletal sites. Pain distribution was related to slower gait speed and other gait characteristics for all gait conditions. Associations persisted after adjustment for age, sex, education, body mass index, medication, and vision. Decrements in gait measures related to pain were comparable with decrements in gait related to dual-task conditions. There were no differences in dual-task cost among the pain distribution groups. Adjusted for confounders, pain-gait relationships appear mediated by selective attention.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that chronic pain contributes to decrements in gait, including slower gait speed, and that it operates through a cognitively-mediated pathway. Further research is needed to understand the mechanisms via pain alters mobility and to develop interventions to improve mobility among older adults with chronic pain.

Keywords: Aging; Chronic pain; Cognition; Gait; Mobility limitation; Rehabilitation.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest Statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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