Background Low back pain is the most frequent cause of rheumatic diseases in Africa (1). However the studies are scarce, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Objectives To determine the main characteristics of non-specific chronic low back pain in Cameroon, Central Africa.
Methods We performed a cross-sectional study in all 6804 patients seen in Rheumatology department in a tertiary healthcare centre, the General Hospital of Douala, Cameroon, between January 2004 and December 2013. All patients followed for low back pain (pain experienced in all the lumbar region of the spine) were screened. Patients were classified into acute low back pain (<3 weeks), subacute low back pain (3 weeks - 3 months) and chronic low back pain (>3 months).
Patients with specific low back pain (infection, tumor, fracture, inflammation, …) were excluded from this study. A p<0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results During the study period, 3008 patients were seen for low back pain. Of these, 220 patients (7.3%) had specific low back pain and 2788 (92.7%) had non-specific low back pain, including 1302 with chronic low back pain. Chronic low back pain were more common than acute and subacute low back pain (p=0.001) without statistical difference in mean age and sex ratio (p>0.05) (Table 1).
Table 2 shows the distribution of patients according to the radiographic lesions found. The disc disease, particularly the degenerative disc disease were the most common radiographic lesions, found in more than half of the patients.
Conclusions Non-specific chronic low back pain is the most prevalent musculoskeletal condition in Cameroon. It concerns almost half of the patients seen in Rheumatology department. The degenerative disc disease are the most common radiographic lesions.
The hospital-based study would explain the marked prevalence of chronic low back pain on acute and subacute low back pain. These latter would probably be more often seen in peripheral hospitals by general practitioners.
Louw QA et al. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2007;8:105.
Disclosure of Interest None declared