It has been reported that individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) experience 30% more falls and have a 20% greater risk of fractures as those without OA.1 Older adults with arthritis are more than twice as likely to have two or more falls as those without arthritis and up to 50% of people with OA experience a fall every year.2
There are several factors that can contribute to the OA-fall connection. Osteoarthritis can affect joint function in many different parts of the body, leading to pain, decreased strength, impaired balance, and poor gait, all of which can contribute to falls. It has been shown that those who reported two or more locations of musculoskeletal pain, severe pain, or pain that interfered with their ability to perform daily activities were significantly more likely to fall than those with no pain or low levels of pain.3
Other condition such a diabetes, lack of physical activity or difficulty exercising due to OA symptoms, and certain medications can further increase the risk for falls and fall-related injuries.3
How Exercise can Minimize Fall Risk if you have OA:
- Exercise is an effective treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in osteoarthritis and can help lower your risk of falling.
- Engage in the right kind of physical activity based on your symptoms. Low impact aerobic activities such as walking, biking, and swimming are usually best.
- The recommended amount of aerobic exercise is 30 minutes, 5 days/week, but if you are unable to do 30 minutes at a time you still receive the same benefits from shorter intervals, such as 10 minutes, 3x/day.
- Avoid exercise programs that put excessive strain on your joints. If you have more pain after exercising than before you started, or soreness that lasts longer than 48 hours, you have done too much.
- If you are unsure about exercising on your own, join a physical activity program/class in your community.1
- Doré AL, et al. Lower Limb Osteoarthritis and the Risk of Falls in a Community Based Longitudinal Study of Adults with and without Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2015 May; 67(5): 633–639.