Lower back pain in physically demanding college academic programs: a questionnaire based study

Brennan, G., Shafat, A., Mac Donncha, C. and Vekins, C. (2007) Lower back pain in physically demanding college academic programs: a questionnaire based study.


Background: Lower back pain (LBP) is ranked first as a cause of disability and inability to work, and is expected to affect up to 90% of the worlds population at some point in their lifetime. The annual first time incidence of LBP is 5%, and the annual prevalence (i. e. those suffering at time of questioning) is between 15 and 63%. Prospective studies demonstrate that low back problems do not display a six-week spontaneous recovery pattern, as was once believed. The condition is regularly seen to worsen over time, becoming a chronic disorder, influenced by both physical and psychosocial factors. Methods: The current study assessed the level of LBP amongst students engaged in educational programs that were physically demanding, and its influence on lower back problems. A 1-year retrospective questionnaire consisting of 37 closed, open and multi-choice questions was designed to ascertain self-reported information on the occurrence, cause and type of LBP. Treatment, care seeking and general knowledge regarding LBP were also recorded. Students were enrolled in BSc Equine Science, BSc Physical Education and BSc Sports & Exercise Science degree programs and a total number of 188 valid questionnaires were collected. Results: The self reported, anthropometrical data for participants in this study are: age 20.9 +/- 2.7 yrs; height 171.8 +/- 9.3 cm; weight 66.7 +/- 10.4 kg; female 64% ( n = 120), male 36% ( n = 68). The overall self reported prevalence of LBP was 32% ( n = 61). Within the LBP population, 77% reported their problem as recurring. Two factors showed significance as having an influence on LBP. They were age (21.6 +/- 3.5 yrs, p = 0.005) and hours of personal training physical activity (14.0 +/- 8.2 hrs per week, p = 0.02). LBP sufferers also displayed poor management of their condition and an interest in education and treatment of their problem. Conclusion: The current study revealed high prevalence of LBP consistent with that of the literature, and unveiled a recurrence rate and behavioral habits of sufferers, which are warning signs of a more chronic state to come. Novel data presented here offers strong support for the need for prospective injury tracking, plus educational intervention and treatment aimed at prevention of LBP.

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