Background: Though seen as a convenient method of carrying books and other scholastic materials including food items, schoolbags are believed to contribute to back and other musculoskeletal problems in school going children. This study set out to determine the prevalence of low back and other musculoskeletal pains and describe their relationship with schoolbag use in pupils.
Results: This was a cross-sectional descriptive study involving 532 pupils from six primary schools with a mean age of 13.6 years. Analyses included the chi- square test, independent t tests, regression analysis and test for trend across ordered groups. Backpacks were the most common type of schoolbag and younger children carried disproportionately heavier bags. Urban pupils were younger, carried significantly heavier bags, and less likely to complain about schoolbag weight than the rural pupils. About 30.8% of the pupils carried schoolbags which were more than 10% of their body weight. About 88.2% of pupils reported having body pain especially in the neck, shoulders and upper back. About 35.4% of the children reported that carrying the schoolbag was the cause of their musculoskeletal pain. The prevalence of lower back pain was 37.8%. There was significant association between low back pain and; method of bag carriage (p < 0.0001), long duration of walking (odds ratio 2.67, 95% CI 1.38- 5.16) and the time spent sitting after school (p = 0.02). Only 19% had lockers at school.
Conclusion: Urban pupils were younger, carried significantly heavier bags, and less likely to complain about schoolbag weight than the rural pupils. The majority of pupils complained of musculoskeletal pain of which 35.4% was attributed to the schoolbags.The prevalence of lower back pain was 37.8%. Schools need to provide lockers and functional libraries in order to avoid excessive loading and repetitive strain injuries.