Matthew Chiwaridzo, Nirmala Naidoo

January 2016, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 643 - 650 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-015-4105-9

First Online: 07 July 2015


The purpose of the study was to investigate the consequences of recurrent non-specific low back pain in Zimbabwean adolescents. Recurrent non-specific low back pain is a common cause of adult disability in low-income countries. However, its impact in adolescents has been a matter of debate in the literature.


A survey was conducted using a cluster sample of 544 school children between the ages of 13 and 19 years. The school children were randomly selected from government-administered secondary schools in Harare, Zimbabwe.


Parental and students’ response rate were 90.3 and 97.8 %, respectively. Almost a third (28.8 %) of school children reported recurrent symptoms (CI 27.8–31.6). However, the majority (84 %) of these cases were unknown to parents. Twenty-seven percent reported having sought medical treatment. On the nine-item Hanover Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire, 71.2 % of school children had at least one activity of daily living compromised by recurrent NSLBP, especially sports participation. However, severe disability was reported in 28 % of the adolescents. Health-care seeking behaviour was not associated with the level of disability [χ 2(1) = 0.36, p = 0.55].


Although most parents are unaware, recurrent NSLBP is common in Zimbabwean school children. However, treatment is rarely sought for the symptoms. A preponderance of adolescents with recurrent NSLBP experiences some degree of functional consequences, although severe disability is rare. There is need to raise awareness of the condition in schools and to parents. Spinal health educational programmes may need to be implemented to avert the functional consequences. Further studies are needed in the future to investigate the coping strategies for pain in adolescents.

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