Problem: Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most prevalent work-related conditions affecting employed populations in developed countries, yet little is known about this condition among the world's largest, single-nation labor force: The People's Republic of China.
Method: This is a cross-sectional study of the prevalence of low back pain (LBP) among garment workers, battery/kiln workers, and teachers in Shanghai, People's Republic of China. Data were collected by personal interview and physical examination at six work sites. The overall response rate was 78%.
Results: The overall (N=383) self-reported annual prevalence of LBP symptoms lasting 24 hours or more was 50%. Garment workers had a higher annual prevalence of LBP (74%) than teachers (40%), prevalence ratio (PR=1.9, 95% CI=1.4-2.4).
Discussion: The overall annual prevalence of self-reported LBP (50%) was higher than that reported among 50 other Chinese employed study populations (30%). Healthy worker effects may have limited the conclusions from this cross-sectional study.
Summary: These results suggest that LBP is a prevalent condition in Chinese workers and that more work should be done to estimate its impact on the Chinese workforce. The findings for garment workers were consistent with increased risk of LBP among persons doing work in fixed, sedentary postures.