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East Afr J Public Health. 2009 Apr;6(1):22-5.

Prevalence and risk factors of low back pain among nurses in Africa: Nigerian and Ethiopian specialized hospitals survey study.

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Department of Physiology/Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Jimma University, Ethiopia.



The mechanical hazards in the hospitals include low back pain (LBP) from manual lifting (lifting patients in particular) which makes nursing one of the occupations most affected by LBP. Nurses are required to lift and transport patients or equipments, often in difficult environment particularly in developing nations like Africa, where lifting aids are not always available or practicable. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk factors of LBP among nurses in African.


A cross-sectional study was designed and used to determine the prevalence and risk factors for LBP among nurses in a typical Nigerian (Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital [MMSHI) and Ethiopian (Jimma University Specialized Hospital [JUSH]) Specialized Hospitals. A department-to-department enquiry was conducted using a self structured valid and reliable questionnaire. Simple percentage (%) and Chi square were used to analyze variables of interest.


Five hundred and eight respondents (178 [35%] males and 330 [65%] females) participated in the study. The 12 month prevalence of low back pain (LBP) was 360 (70.87%). LBP was more prevalent among female nurses (67.5%) than the male nurses (32.5%). It was also associated with occupational hazard and poor knowledge of back care ergonomics. The prevalence of LBP was highest among nurses in Obstetrics and Gynecology Unit (26.67%) and least among tutors (4.17%).There was no significant difference between Nigeria and Ethiopian nurses' responses in prevalence, etiology and knowledge of back care. However, there was a significant association between gender, knowledge of back-care ergonomics and prevalence of LBP at p< 0.05. The prevalence of LBP at MMSH (Nigeria) and JUSH (Ethiopia) is comparable to levels recorded outside Africa. However, in this study LBP did not feature as a major cause of sickness absence in the work place contrary to those reported outside Africa. Nurses only lost 202 days (0.15%) of the total working (131,400) days, this is considerably very low. Though, longer sick leaves (7563 days) were medically advised and applied for, However, only about 2.7% of the applied sick leaves was granted on technical or/and administrative grounds against medical recommendation and advices.


It was concluded that poor back care ergonomics, duty stress and unavailability of lifting equipments are the major predisposing factors of LBP among nurses in Africa.


It was recommended that regular refresher courses on back care ergonomics are essential.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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