Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Interventions for preventing falls in people with multiple sclerosis.

Hayes, Sara; Galvin, Rose; Kennedy, Catriona; Finlayson, Marcia; McGuigan, Christopher; Walsh, Cathal D.; Coote, Susan


Sara Hayes

Rose Galvin

Marcia Finlayson

Christopher McGuigan

Cathal D. Walsh

Susan Coote


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most prevalent diseases of the central nervous system, with recent prevalence estimates indicating that MS directly affects 2.3 million people worldwide. Fall rates of 56% have been reported among people with MS in a recent meta-analysis. Clinical guidelines do not outline an evidence-based approach to falls interventions in MS. There is a need for synthesised information regarding the effectiveness of falls prevention interventions in MS. The aim of this review was to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce falls in people with MS. Specific objectives included comparing: (1) falls prevention interventions to controls; and (2) different types of falls prevention interventions. We searched the Trials Register of the Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis and Rare Diseases of the CNS Group, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (2018 Issue 9); MEDLINE (PubMed) (1966 to 12 September 2018); Embase ( (1974 to 12 September 2018); Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (EBSCOhost) (1981 to 12 September 2018); Latin American and Caribbean Health Science Information Database (Bireme) (1982 to 12 September 2018);; and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform; PsycINFO (1806 to 12 September 2018; and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (1999 to 12 September 2018). We selected randomised controlled trials or quasi-randomised trials of interventions to reduce falls in people with MS. We included trials that examined falls prevention interventions compared to controls or different types of falls prevention interventions. Primary outcomes included: falls rate, risk of falling, number of falls per person and adverse events. Two review authors screened studies for selection, assessed risk of bias and extracted data. We used a rate ratio (RaR) and 95% confidence interval to compare falls rate between groups. For risk of falling, we used a risk ratio (RR) and 95% CI based on the number of fallers in each group. A total of 839 people with MS (12 to 177 individuals) were randomised in the thirteen included trials. The mean age of the participants was 52 years (36 to 62 years). The percentage of women participants ranged from 59% to 85%. Studies included people with all types of MS. Most trials compared an exercise intervention with no intervention or different types of falls prevention interventions. We included two comparisons: (1) Falls prevention intervention versus control; and (2) Falls prevention intervention versus another falls prevention intervention. The most common interventions tested were exercise as a single intervention, education as a single intervention, functional electrical stimulation and exercise plus education. The risk of bias of the included studies was mixed, with nine studies demonstrating high risk of bias related to one or more aspects of their methodology. The evidence was uncertain regarding the effects of exercise versus control on falls rate (RaR of 0.68; 95% CI 0.43 to 1.06; very low-quality evidence), number of fallers (RR of 0.85; 95% CI 0.51 to 1.43; low-quality evidence) and adverse events (RR of 1.25; 95% CI 0.26 to 6.03; low-quality evidence). Data were not available on quality of life outcomes comparing exercise to control. The majority of other comparisons between falls interventions and controls demonstrated no evidence of effect in favour of either group for all primary outcomes. For the comparison of different falls prevention interventions, the heterogeneity of intervention types across studies prohibited the pooling of data. In relation to secondary outcomes, there was evidence of an effect in favour of exercise interventions compared to controls for balance function with a SMD of 0.50 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.92), self-reported mobility with a SMD of 16.30 (95% CI 9.34 to 23.26) and objective mobility with a SMD of 0.28 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.50). Secondary outcomes were not assessed under the GRADE criteria and results must be interpreted with caution. In conclusion, the evidence regarding the effects of interventions for preventing falls in MS is sparse and uncertain. The evidence base demonstrates mixed risk of bias, with very low to low certainty of the evidence. There is some evidence in favour of exercise interventions for the improvement of balance function and mobility. However, this must be interpreted with caution as these secondary outcomes were not assessed under the GRADE criteria and the results represent data from a small number of studies. Robust RCTs examining the effectiveness of multifactorial falls interventions on falls outcomes are needed.


HAYES, S., GALVIN, R., KENNEDY, C., FINLAYSON, M., MCGUIGAN, C., WALSH, C.D. and COOTE, S. 2019. Interventions for preventing falls in people with multiple sclerosis. Cochrane database of systematic reviews [online], 2019(11), article number CD012475. Available from:

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Nov 22, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 28, 2019
Publication Date Nov 30, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 29, 2020
Journal Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Print ISSN 1361-6137
Electronic ISSN 1469-493X
Publisher Cochrane Collaboration
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2019
Issue 11
Article Number CD012475
Keywords Multiple sclerosis; Falling; Patient interventions; Exercise interventions; Educational interventions; Functional electrical stimulation; Quality of life; Diagnostic criteria; Exercise program; Physical activity; Risk assessment; Older adults; Balance; Gu
Public URL
Related Public URLs


Related Outputs

You might also like

Downloadable Citations