Original Research

Low back pain in physiotherapy students: Prevalence and the association with neuromuscular findings

E. Burger, H. Myezwa, V. Naidoo, B. Olivier, A. Rothberg
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 69, No 4 | a376 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v69i4.376 | © 2013 E. Burger, H. Myezwa, V. Naidoo, B. Olivier, A. Rothberg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 November 2013 | Published: 16 January 2013

About the author(s)

E. Burger, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
H. Myezwa, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
V. Naidoo, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
B. Olivier, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
A. Rothberg, School of Therapeutic Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Abstract

Background: Physiotherapy students are prone to low back pain (LBP) due to studying and their active involvement in clinical treatment of patients. As a result of pathology, muscle activity is influenced, affecting optimal function of the spine. Method: Physiotherapy students enrolled for 2010 at the University of the Witwatersrand participated in a cross-sectional study. A questionnaire and physical assessment were completed. Results: The study revealed that the lifetime LBP prevalence was 36% among physiotherapy students. Associations with LBP were hours of practical exposure, posterior-anterior mobilisations on L4 (p=0.003) and L5 (p≤0.001) centrally and unilaterally, left lumbar multifidus (LM) cross-sectional area (p=0.02), right obliquus internusabdominis (OI) (p=0.02) and right transversus abdominis (TrA) thickness at rest (p=0.02), as well as the pull of the TrA during contraction on the left (p=0.03). Discussion: Hours of practical exposure may play a role in lumbar pathology. Due to pathology, muscle imbalances of LM, TrA and OI affect the stability of the spine which may lead to recurrences. Conclusion: Practical exposure as well as LM, TrA and OI muscle imbalances were associated with LBP in physiotherapy students. Awareness of the factors associated with LBP while studying at an undergraduate level may lead to better prevention of LBP.

Keywords

Low back pain; Physiotherapy; Abdominal mucsle thickness; recruitment

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