Disability associated with low back pain in Mulago Hospital, Kampala Uganda

  • M Galukande Faculty of Medicine, Kampala, Uganda
  • S Muwazi
  • BD Mugisa


Background: Low back pain is sufficiently disabling and a common cause of disability particularly during the productive middle years of adult life. Disability implies interference with daily activities.

Objective: To assess and document the disability associated with low back pain in terms of sick leave days, interference with daily activities and some pain characteristics.

Methods: This study was carried out in the Orthopaedic out patient clinic of Mulago Hospital, a tertiary national referral hospital in Kampala, Uganda. It was a descriptive cross sectional study over a period of seven months. 204 patients with mechanical back pain were enrolled in the study, after screening all consecutive new adult patients referred with low back pain as the major complaint. A validated modified Oswestry instrument was used to collect data. Nine daily activities: sleep, sex, lifting, traveling, social and recreational activities, dressing, sitting, walking and running activities were investigated. Data was analyzed using SPSS for windows version 10. Mean and Standard deviations were used to summarize continuous variables. P value was considered statistically significant if it was equal or less than 0.05.

Results: 87% of the respondents reported a mean of 14 days off work during the 4 weeks prior to the interview because of back problems. The mean duration of a current low back pain episode was 5 months. All activities were interfered with; with lifting as the most affected with a mean score of 4.5, walking and running was 3.6, standing was 3.3, sex life was 2.9, traveling was 2.9, sitting was 2.7, social and recreational activities was 2.7, getting dressed was 2.1 and sleeping was 1.8.

Conclusion: Our results confirm that low back pain is a significant cause of disability affecting the productive middle years of adult life and causes significant disruption of daily activities including sleep and sex. The cost of lost work time, compensation and treatment for our setting is a knowledge gap that should be filled by further study. There is need for a community-based study to ascertain extent of the problem in at a wider population level.

African Health Sciences Vol. 6(3) 2006: 173-176

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