The profile of people reporting with low back pain to a resource poor clinic in Cape Town

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South African Journal of Physiotherapy

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University of Cape Town

In order to provide targeted information regarding understanding and management of low back pain (LBP), it is necessary to understand the life situation of patients. The objective of this study was to develop a profile of patients with LBP seeking care in an under-resourced area of Cape Town.The subjects were all patients attending a community health centre with a primary diagnosis of LBP. A self-designed questionnaire was used to gather relevant information such as BMI, smoking, physical activities at home and work and potentially stressful life events. Questions about perceptions of LBP, the role of health personnel, income and employment were included. Subjects could also identify which information they would like to be given by their health care providers. Fifty subjects were interviewed, 74% were female. The mean ages were 50.7 years (SD 14.0) and 54.1 years (SD 15.1) for males and females respectively. There was a high prevalence of smoking and obesity, low levels of education, and many reported high stress levels. There were a high percentage of manual workers and the nature of their activities could put them at risk for development and exacerbation of LBP. Few people knew what to expect with regard to the likely outcome of their pain and the majority identified the need for communication about the duration, prognosis, implications and management of LBP. Conclusion: A profile developed of the typical LBP patient in this community provided valuable information, which can be utilized to develop appropriate intervention strategies.