Physical Function in Older Adults With Multiple Sclerosis: An Application of the Short Physical Performance Battery

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Abstract

Background and Purpose:

There is a growing prevalence of older persons living with multiple sclerosis (MS), and this cohort likely undergoes changes in physical function associated with MS and its progression as well as those associated with normal aging. This cross-sectional study examined physical function in a community-dwelling sample of older adults with MS compared with matched controls using the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB).

Methods:

The sample (N = 40) included 20 older adults with MS and 20 older adults without MS who were matched on sex and age. All participants completed the SPPB.

Results:

Statistically significant differences were observed between groups for the overall SPPB score (P = .013; d = 0.45) and the balance (P = .002; d = 0.46) and gait speed (P = .009; d = 0.30) component scores. The difference between groups in the lower extremity strength component approached significance (P = .056; d = 0.34). Of note, only 2 older adults without MS had SPPB scores below 10 (ie, 10%), whereas 8 older adults with MS had SPPB scores below 10 (ie, 40%); this represented a statistically significant difference in future risk for disability (P = .028).

Discussion/Conclusions:

We provide preliminary evidence for reduced physical function based on the SPPB as a valid, objective measure of lower extremity functional performance among older adults with MS.

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