The prevalence and risk factors for occupational low back pain in manual therapists
Manual therapists are susceptible to occupational low back pain. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk factors for occupational low back pain in manual therapists and to determine and compare the prevalence and risk factors for occupational low back pain among various types of manual therapists in South Africa. This study was conducted as a cross-sectional survey and a self-administered questionnaire, developed from the literature and validated prior to the study, was mailed to 1500 randomly selected manual therapists, including: physiotherapists, occupational therapists, biokineticists, chiropractors, reflexologists, aromatherapists and massage therapists. A total of 233 completed questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 15.53%. Results revealed that the point prevalence of low back pain in manual therapists was very high at 41%, the one-year prevalence was 59% and the career prevalence was 74%. The point prevalence of low back pain was highest in aromatherapists and biokineticists, while both the one-year and career prevalence of low back pain was highest in occupational therapists and massage therapists. The risk factors for low back pain in manual therapists were: BMI; previous abdominal surgery; previous trauma to the low back, hips, knees or ankles; a physically stressful job; not having an assistant and work in a hospital or other setting. In keeping with the literature, various workrelated factors were implicated in the development and / or exacerbation of low back pain in certain manual therapists more than others and low back pain history in the different manual therapists was also in accordance with the literature. To conclude, low back pain is prevalent among South African manual therapists and the development and implementation of preventative programs to reduce rates of occupational low back pain in manual therapists is mandatory.