The prevalence of lower back pain and absenteeism and their associations with self-reported exercise patterns in workers at a South African poultry abattoir
Lower back pain (LBP) is the most prevalent musculoskeletal condition in many industries, including the meat-processing industry, with previous research confirming that workers in poultry abattoirs are at risk of developing LBP. Lower back pain is a major cause of sickness absenteeism, and regular exercise is considered beneficial to manage LBP among workers. Little is known about LBP and poultry abattoir workers in South Africa. The purpose of the study therefore was to describe LBP among these workers and explore possible associations between LBP and specific job designations, exercise patterns and sickness absenteeism. A descriptive study with an analytical component was conducted among workers at a poultry abattoir in South Africa. A structured questionnaire was used to collect the data regarding back pain experienced in the previous 12 months. The results indicated a 12-month prevalence of LBP of 77.6% (95% CI 70.6%; 83.3%), while 24.2% had to reduce work activities because of their LBP symptoms. However, more than half of the workers with LBP (59.4%) were not absent from work due to LBP. There was no significant association between LBP and exercises with 40.0% indicating that they exercised on a regular basis. This study indicated a high prevalence of LBP among workers whose job designation has an increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders, as reported in previous research. Work-related factors, such as job designations with repetitive movements should be identified and addressed in the management of LBP. Even though this study did not find a significant association between LBP and exercises, nearly half of workers indicated that they exercise on a regular basis. Additional research is needed to study the effect of exercise on LBP among workers in poultry abattoirs in South Africa.