Medication status and gait mechanics in older adults: a multivariate analysis

Review written by Dr Mariana Wingood info

Key Points

  1. Polypharmacy is linked to gait impairments in older adults, in particular double limb support time.
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Aging is associated with a plethora of age-related changes, including gait deviations (1,2). One cause for these abnormal gait changes are medications, more specifically medications that are classified as potentially inappropriate for older adults (3). The list of these medications can be seen on the American Geriatric Society’s Beers Criteria, which is updated every three years and is intended to improve medication selection, educate clinicians and patients, reduce adverse drug events, and serve as a tool for evaluating the quality of care, cost, and patterns of drug use (4).

Unfortunately, approximately 40% of older adults in the United States are taking more than five medications per day and therefore increasing their risk for gait abnormalities (5). The concerns related to this high percentage of polypharmacy are the health-related consequences and the unknown factors that contribute to safety and fall risk, including gait disturbances (6).

Due to the gap related to knowledge about medications and gait disturbances, the authors of this study decided to test the hypothesis that gait kinematics will differ as a function of the number of medications prescribed in individuals with a history of self-reported falls. Their study aimed to guide patients, health care providers, and other caregivers in regard to the importance of strategies to maintain physical function for persons taking multiple or specific types of medications.

Approximately 40% of older adults in the United States are taking more than five medications per day.
It is important for therapists to examine all potential causes of gait deviations, including polypharmacy.


Participants (n=384):

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