Background: Low back pain (LBP) is the most prevalent musculoskeletal condition and one the most common causes of disability in the developed nations. Anecdotally, there is a general assumption that LBP prevalence in Africa is comparatively lower than in developed countries. The aim of this review was to systematically appraise the published prevalence studies conducted on the African continent to establish the prevalence of LBP in Africa.
Methods: A comprehensive search was conducted in April 2006. The following databases PEDro, Psychinfo, Science Direct, SportsDiscus, PubMed, CINAHL, Biblioline Pro-African Wide NiPAD and SA ePublications were individually searched using specifically developed search strategies for epidemiological research conducted on LBP amongst the African population. Two reviewers independently evaluated the methodological quality of the studies reviewed.
Results: A total of 27 eligible epidemiological studies were included in this review. The majority of the studies (63%) were conducted in South Africa (37%) and Nigeria (26%). The most common population group involved workers (48%), while scholars comprised 15% of the population. 67% of the studies were found to be methodologically sound, and the LBP prevalence of these were analyzed. The mean LBP point prevalence among the adolescents was 12% and among adults was 32%. The average one year prevalence of LBP among adolescents was 33% and among adults was 50%. The average lifetime prevalence of LBP among the adolescents was 36% and among adults was 62%.
Conclusion: The findings support the global burden of disease of LBP, in addition to suggesting that LBP prevalence among Africans is rising and is of concern. Further research into the most effective strategies to prevent and manage LBP in Africa is warranted.