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Title: The aetiology of low back pain in schoolchildren
Author: Jones, Gareth Tudor
ISNI:       0000 0004 2675 6105
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2002
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Introduction: Lifetime prevalence of low back pain in the adult population has been estimated to be over 60% and the costs to society are huge. It has been calculated that the direct health care costs of the condition approach £2billion per annum in the UK alone, and further costs are associated with informal care and with lost productivity in the workplace. Prevalence of the condition increases with age from approximately 30% at age 25yrs and studies have shown that, in adults, the greatest predictor of low back pain is a previous history of similar symptoms. It is important, therefore, to examine the aetiology of low back pain in youth. In childhood low back pain is also reasonably common and some authors have published prevalence estimates approaching those in adults. A number of factors have been associated with the occurrence of low back pain in childhood and/or adolescence: physical factors, such as height and weight; mechanical factors, such as the carriage of heavy schoolbags; lifestyle factors, such as sports participation; psychosocial and psychological factors, such as behavioural conditions and a negative affect score; and familial factors, such as the presence of parental pain. However, the majority of published research in this field has been cross-sectional in nature and, therefore, cannot distinguish between cause and effect. To investigate the aetiology of low back pain it is clear that longitudinal studies that examine the onset of the condition are required. Aims: To identify the risk factors for the onset of low back pain in adolescents. Study Design: Population-based prospective cohort study. Methodology: Two cross-sectional surveys were carried out twelve months apart. At baseline, 1040 children aged 11-14yrs, from thirty-nine schools in the Northwest of England, were identified as being free of low back pain. In these children, average daily mechanical load was assessed using schoolbag weight, recorded over a five day period. Using a self-completion questionnaire, exposure to a number of other potential risk factors was assessed: lifestyle factors, psychosocial factors, and the occurrence of other common childhood (somatic) pain complaints. These children were then followed up twelve months subsequently to establish episodes of new onset low back pain. In addition, using a postal questionnaire, information was obtained from parents of the subjects regarding the occurrence of parental pain, and also, in girls, menstrual status. Results: 935 children (89.4%) participated at follow-up, of whom 168 (18.6%) reported low back pain - by definition, new onset low back pain. The occurrence of new onset low back pain increased with age and was more common in girls than boys but was unrelated to menstruation. The onset of low back pain was associated with neither average daily mechanical load, nor mechanical load relative to body weight. In general, lifestyle factors were not predictive of future pain, although sporting activity was significantly, but non-linearly, associated with an increased risk of pain. In contrast, adverse psychosocial factors were consistently and strongly associated with an increased risk of future pain; this was true for conduct problems in particular. Furthermore, the baseline occurrence of headache, abdominal pain and sore throats was associated with an increased risk of low back pain at follow-up. Children whose parents reported pain were no more likely to report low back pain (or indeed, any pain) than other children. Conclusions: This study has provided no evidence that mechanical factors are associated with an increased risk of future low back pain. Adverse psychosocial behaviour, and conduct problems in particular, are associated with an increased risk of new onset low back pain. In addition, the prior occurrence of other common pain conditions was strongly associated with an increased risk of future pain. Thus, this study concludes that low back pain in childhood may be a manifestation of somatisation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available