African Health Sciences

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Aetiology of low back pain in Mulago Hospital, Uganda

Moses Galukande, Stephen Muwazi, Didace B Mugisa


Background: Low back pain exists in epidemic proportions in the western world and is on the increase. Its cause is mostly nonspecific. Not much is known about it in the developing world because the data is scanty. This study was set out to investigate the possible causes of low back pain and prevalence.

Objective: To establish the likely causes of low back pain among patients seen in the out patient department, Mulago Hospital, Uganda.

Methods: 204 patients were enrolled out of 1033 general patients who were present to the out patient referral hospital orthopedic clinic. All the 204 were referred patients with low back pain as the chief complaint. They were subjected to a questionnaire, which included history taking, a physical examination and investigations. Data was entered using Epi info soft ware and analyzed using SPSS.

Results: The prevalence was 20%. The mean age was 47 years 10 months. The majority, 62.3% of patients had mechanical or simple back pain with no definable patho-anatomic causative factor (non-specific). 19.1% had nerve root compression due to prolapsed intervertebral discs. 17.2% had serious spinal pathology due to tuberculosis, brucellosis, fractures and degenerative changes. For 3 patients (1.5%) the cause was not determined.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that low back pain of non-specific aetiology is the commonest cause of back pain. The precise aetiology of this large indefinite entity warrant further study.
African Health Sciences Vol.5(2) 2005: 164-167

AJOL African Journals Online