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A Cross-Sectional Survey of Nonspecific Low Back Pain Among 2083 Schoolchildren in China

Yao, Weiguang MD*; Mai, Xiaodan MD; Luo, Chenling MD; Ai, Fuzhi MD§; Chen, Qing MD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181faadea
Health Services Research

Study Design. A cross-sectional survey of 2083 schoolchildren.

Objective. To investigate the prevalence of nonspecific low back pain (LBP) among schoolchildren aged between 10 and 18 years in China.

Summary of Background Data. LBP have been a serious health problem in schoolchildren. On the basis of literature, the lifetime occurrence of nonspecific LBP in children and adolescents varies between 7% and 72%, but little is known about LBP among this demographic group in China.

Methods. Schoolchildren aged 10 to 18 years were sampled from two grades in an elementary school and four grades in a secondary school. Participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire on LBP. The questionnaire addressed demographic items, anthropometric factors and characteristics of nonspecific LBP, such as frequency, duration, nature, pain scale. Nonspecific LBP is defined as the pain in the back from the 12th ribs to the buttock area without organic factors. A total of 2235 questionnaires were distributed, of which 2100 were answered, a response rate of 93.7%. Among those answers, 2083 (977 from male students and 1106 from female students) provided measurable data.

Results. The occurrence of nonspecific LBP was high, with 29.1% students suffering from this condition in the past 3 months (24.7% in boys, 33.1% in girls). In addition, an increased occurrence was observed with age. The occurrences of LBP in 10 to 14 years and 15 to 18 years were 21.5% and 38.2%, respectively. In several aspects of LBP, statistically significant differences were observed between boys and girls, including the frequency of the pain (P = 0.003), the nature of the pain (P = 0.000), the likelihood of seeking for medical assistance (P = 0.007), the impact on normal daily life (P = 0.016), and the occurrence of LBP after bending over the desk for a period of time (P = 0.024). Female students had more frequent LBP and were less willing to see a physician. In addition, more female students (45/366) had LBP accompanied with radiating pain than male students (20/241).

Conclusion. There is a high prevalence of LBP in Chinese schoolchildren. The occurrence of LBP increases with age in both sexes. LBP is significantly more prevalent in girls.

A cross-sectional study involving a total of 2083 schoolchildren was conducted to investigate the prevalence of nonspecific low back pain (LBP). The prevalence of LBP was high with 29.1% students suff ering from this experience in the past 3 months. The prevalence increased with the age. The statistically significantly diff erences were observed in several aspects of pain between boys and girls.

*School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, College of Humanities and Management

School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

School of Nursing, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

§Department of Orthopedics, Liuhuaqiao Hospital, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Qing Chen, MD, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Southern Medical University, 1838 Guangzhou North Road, Guangzhou 510515, Guangdong Province, China; E-mail:

Acknowledgment date: January 15, 2010. First revision date: August 5, 2010. Second revision date: August 23, 2010. Acceptance date: August 27, 2010.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

Grant funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Grants Provided by Guangdong Province “211 Project” (grant number GW201004) and the Dean Foundation of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Southern Medical University.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.