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Title: The epidemiology of low back pain in radiographers working in the eThekwini Municipality
Authors: Erasmus, Mynhardt 
Keywords: Radiographers;Occupational low back pain;Epidemiology;Chiropractic
Issue Date: 2018
Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common causes of occupational disability in healthcare professionals, including radiographers. Radiographers experience several difficulties at work, which include continuous radiation exposure, long working hours; shift work; high physical work load; inadequate staffing; heavy weight of the mobile x-ray machine; wearing a lead apron; bending and lifting patients. There is a paucity in the literature on the epidemiology of LBP in radiographers working in the public and private sectors of South Africa. To date no study has been performed which determines the risk factors for developing LBP in diagnostic radiographers within the eThekwini Municipality.

The aim of the study was to determine the epidemiology of LBP in diagnostic radiographers working in the public and private sectors of the eThekwini Municipality, and to identify the risk factors for LBP to which diagnostic radiographers are exposed.

Research methodology
The research conducted was a quantitative study with a descriptive design which targeted diagnostic radiographers working in both the public and private sectors of the eThekwini Municipality. The research tool was an online survey administered through ‘SurveyMonkey’ which included questions and statements relating to the epidemiology of LBP in order to meet the study objectives.

Results and discussion
One hundred and thirty-one radiographers (55,0%) participated in this study, of which 43 had to be excluded as per the exclusion criteria. The

final response rate was 37,0% (n=88), with 43,2% of the respondents from the public sector and 56,8% from the private sector. The point prevalence of LBP was found to be 42,1% and 36,0% in the private sector. The period prevalence rates of LBP in the public sector were i) 0-3 months 10,5%; ii) 3-6 months 2,6%; iii) 4-9 months 15,8%; and iv) 9-12 months 23,7%. The private sector LBP period prevalence rates were i) 0-3 months 6,0%; ii) 3- 6 months 0%; iii) 4-9 months 4,0%; and iv) 9-12 months 34,0%. The cumulative annual LBP prevalence rate was 52,6% in the public sector and 44,0% in the private sector. Lifetime prevalence for LBP in the public sector and private sector radiographers was 89,5% and 90,0% respectively. The participants were characterised with bilateral, intermittent LBP that was moderate in nature, described as stiffness, a dull ache or sharp/shooting pain that was worse at work, reduced on days off work and affecting their daily and leisure activities.

Work-related LBP activities reported by radiographers included sitting for long periods; lifting heavy objects and patients; twisting; working at a computer; bending; continuous pulling; and working with forward positioned arms. Other activities included wearing a lead apron; transferring patients to a bed/chair; positioning of the overhead x-ray tube; sitting and standing for >3 hours; pushing hospital bed patients; carrying imaging cassettes; and working fast due to radiation exposure. Radiographers involved in these activities had an 80,0-100,0% risk of experiencing LBP. The were 45% of the participants who reported previously injuring their lower back at work. Female radiographers were more prone to LBP compared with male radiographers. High stress levels and smoking were associated with an increased incidence of LBP, and exercise was found to reduce the incidence of LBP
Submitted in partial compliance with the requirements for the Master’s Degree in Technology: Chiropractic, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2018.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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