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Musculoskeletal disorders and pain in agricultural workers in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Shivakumar, Mrithula; Welsh, Victoria; Bajpai, Ram; Helliwell, Toby; Mallen, Christian; Robinson, Michelle; Shepherd, Thomas


Mrithula Shivakumar


Agricultural workers constitute two-thirds of the population of Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) and are at increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) due to high-risk activities. This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to synthesise the prevalence, predictors, and outcomes of musculoskeletal pain amongst agricultural workers to identify priority areas for prevention and development of early interventions. This systematic review and meta-analysis included Studies published from the inception of global electronic databases until 30 September 2022 were included. Prevalence estimates for MSDs among agricultural workers aged over 18 years in LMIC were extracted. Narrative synthesis summarized study findings and pooled estimates for 12-month pain prevalence were calculated. 7502 potential studies were identified. 64 studies (68,684 participants from 23 countries) were included in the systematic review; 33 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Low back pain was the most widely investigated symptom. The 12-month pooled prevalence of low back pain was highest in Africa [61.96% (45.69–76.22)] compared to Asia [54.16% (47.76–60.50)] and South/Central America [28.52%(10.91–50.33)]. Narrative synthesis found associations between MSDs, particular activities including heavy lifting and repetitive movements, and outcomes including reduced productivity. MSDs are common in agriculture workers in LMIC. Global prevalence of low back pain in farmers, particularly in Africa, is greater than in previously reported global prevalence in the general population. This may be attributed to environmental factors and high-risk activities which could be targeted for prevention and early intervention strategies to support individuals, prevent disability, and reduce loss of productivity.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 24, 2023
Online Publication Date Nov 24, 2023
Publication Date 2024-02
Deposit Date Nov 27, 2023
Journal Rheumatology International
Print ISSN 0172-8172
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Pages 235–247
Publisher URL