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Investigating occupational risk factors of low back pain and related disability among patients attending a private physiotherapy practice in Gaborone, Botswana.

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Globally, low back pain (LBP) is regarded as the most common cause of occupational illness, job- related disability and absenteeism from work. The presence of LBP in the working age is a great cause for concern, as it is this population that contributes greatly to the productivity and economic viability of a country. However, in order to effect meaningful changes, such as formulating primary prevention and subsequent management strategies aimed at curbing the rising burden of occupational LBP, it is necessary to understand the physical activities that workers are frequently exposed to in the work place that put them at risk of developing LBP. Botswana is largely dependent on the working age population to drive its economy therefore necessitating introductory research, as reported in various industries on occupational risk factors that may hamper optimal worker participation. This research therefore aimed to determine the occupational risk factors and the resulting back-related disability in patients presenting with LBP to a private physiotherapy practice in Gaborone, Botswana. The objectives were fulfilled by using a structured, self–administered questionnaire to describe the demographics of the individuals, determine the extent of sickness absenteeism from work owing to LBP and to establish the resulting back-related disability through the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RDQ). Furthermore, the relationship between occupational risk factors and the level of back-related disability as well as the demographic profile of the study participants and the level of back-related disability were determined based on statistical analysis. The study was successful in establishing that the slight majority were females (52%) and the mean age of participants was 41 years. 35.3 percent of the study participants had between 10 to 19 years of work experience while 43.7 percent were classified as overweight. The results also reflect that minor LBP disability level was reported by 79.8% while 57.2 percent had missed between three to seven days of work in the previous year because of LBP. The occupational risk factors dynamic loads, static loads, repetitive loads, ergonomic environmental conditions, vibrations, prolonged standing, prolonged sitting, prolonged walking were significantly associated with LBP. The odds of having severe back-related disability are increased approximately 163 % for females (p-value= .043613). The presence of LBP and its associated disability in the working age, a population that drives the commercial hub of a nation, calls for recognition of this growing burden as a liability to the economic growth of Botswana. Investigating occupational factors of LBP would assist in making policies that address the different risk factors of LBP particularly in females and the 30 to 39 years age group as these are the commonly affected. In addition, emerging industries with increased risk of back-related disability can be prioritised in terms of ergonomic interventions as well as implementing health policies to help curb the escalating burden of LBP and facilitate optimal worker participation whose indefinite benefits would go a long way in enhancing the economy. Keywords: Low back pain, Risk factors, Disability, Occupational Health, Health Promotion


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.