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Musculoskeletal pain and backpack usage among school children in Nairobi County, Kenya

S.O. Ogana
J.O. Osero
L.J. Wachira


Background: School children travel to and from school on daily basis. Active transportation such as walking, running and cycling contribute significantly to the increase in physical activity, health, and wellbeing in children. However, there has been a growing concern on the effect of carrying heavy backpack on the health of school going children who are at an important developmental stage of their lives.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain linked to backpack use and associated ergonomic factors among pupils in Nairobi City County in Kenya.

Design: Descriptive cross-sectional study.

Setting: Primary schools in Nairobi County

Subjects: 379 school-going children

Results: The study results indicate that a significant number of pupils (73.6%) complain of musculoskeletal pain. Low back pain (25.1%) was the most prevalent musculoskeletal pain followed by neck pain (16.9%). There was a significant association (p=0.001) between backpack weight-to-schoolchild body weight (BTSW %) and the presence of musculoskeletal pain. The proportion of pupils carrying school bag weighing more than 15% of their body weight was 28%.

Conclusion: Prevalence of musculoskeletal pain related to backpack usage among Kenyan school going children is high. School children who carry backpacks that weigh more than 15% of their body weight (BTSW %) are at risk of experiencing musculoskeletal pain.