Although low back pain (LBP) represents a common occupational problem, few epidemiological studies have investigated the prevalence and risk factors for LBP among school teachers, particularly in Africa. School teachers are known to represent an occupational group among which there appears to be a high prevalence of LBP. The objective of this study was, therefore, to conduct one of the first epidemiological investigations of LBP among teachers in Botswana.
A cross-sectional study was conducted among teachers in Botswana using self-administered questionnaires which were distributed to 3100 randomly selected school teachers and collected over a five-month period between July and November 2012. The questionnaire included low back pain information, demographic data, lifestyle, work-related characteristics and psychosocial factors. Data were analysed using Chi-squared and logistic regression models. The 12 month prevalence and LBP disability and associated risk factors were also analysed.
A total of 1747 teachers returned completed questionnaires, yielding a response rate of 56.3%. The 12-month prevalence of LBP was 55.7%, with 67.1% of them reporting minimal disability. The results of logistic regression analysis revealed that female gender [OR: 1.51, 95% CI: 1.14-2.00] and previous back injury [OR: 9.67, 95% CI: 4.94-18.93] were positively correlated to LBP. Awkward arm position [OR: 1.81, 95% CI: 1.24-2.62] and high psychological job demands [OR: 1.40, 95% CI: 1.02-1.93] were also significantly associated with LBP. Regular physical exercise was negatively associated with LBP [OR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.43-0.93]. Female gender [OR: 2.67, 95% CI: 1.52-3.99] and previous back injury [OR: 3.01, 95% CI: 1.92-4.74] were also positively associated with LBP disability.
The prevalence of LBP appears to be high among school teachers in Botswana. A wide variety of LBP risk factors were identified in this study. Female gender and previous injury were both associated with LBP presence and disability. The complex nature of LBP risk factors found in this study suggests than no single specific preventative or intervention strategy will help in reducing these conditions. As such, to help reduce the prevalence, progression and burden of LBP among Botswana teachers, a greater emphasis should now be placed on ergonomics education, regular physical exercise and occupational stress.