Balance dysfunction and falls in people with lower limb arthritis: Factors contributing to risk and effectiveness of exercise interventions

Pazit Levinger, Susannah Wallman, Keith Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Chronic musculoskeletal conditions in the lower extremities, particularly arthritis, and the chronic pain associated with them, are independent risk factors for falls, with approximately 50% of people with arthritis reporting one or more falls. Despite this, few studies have specifically addressed balance dysfunction, falls risk and falls incidence in people with arthritis. This review aimed to identify potential factors contributing to the increased risk of falls in people with lower limb osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and to summarise the evidence base for effective exercise interventions targeted to reduce their risk of falls. A systematic search of the literature was conducted in February 2010 and included the following databases: MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Allied and Complementary Medicine, Cochrane Library and PsycINFO. Only three studies that investigated exercise programmes for people with lower limb arthritis met all inclusion criteria, but none used falls as an outcome measure. To broaden the review, systematic reviews that assessed the effectiveness of exercise interventions for fall prevention in older people were also included. The presence of any form of lower limb arthritis and the associated consequences including pain, balance impairment, reduced muscle strength and reduced function are all associated with increased risk of falling. Due to the link between musculoskeletal pain and the increased risk of falls, further research needs to investigate which type of exercise programme will be effective in reducing the risk of falls in populations with arthritis in the lower limbs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Review of Aging and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Arthritis
  • Elderly
  • Exercise
  • Falls

Cite this