OBJECTIVE: To investigate the possible influences of saddle type on the incidence of "lower back pain" in a cross section of equestrian riders. METHODS: 108 equestrian riders completed a questionnaire concerning their riding habits and whether they suffered from lower back pain. In particular they were asked whether they used a traditional style/general purpose saddle (GP) or a deep seated/Western style saddle (W). RESULTS: 48% of the riders reported suffering from lower back pain, the incidence being higher in the GP saddle users (66%) than in W saddle users (23%) (P < 0.001). Female riders had a higher incidence of lower back pain than males, 58% v 27% (P < 0.005). When the genders were analysed separately for the effect of saddle type, males using the GP and W saddles had a 33% and 6% incidence of lower back pain respectively, while females using the GP and W saddles had a 72% and 33% incidence. The highest incidence of lower back pain occurred in the GP saddle users who had been riding for more than 15 years (P < 0.07). The data also indicated a possible tendency for there to be more low back pain among riders using a short stirrup length. No other factors were found to affect the incidence of lower back pain. CONCLUSIONS: The difference in the incidence of lower back pain between the users of the two saddle types may be due to the additional comfort, cushioning, postural positioning, and stability offered by the design of the deep seated saddle. The results suggest that, while a deep seated saddle is not suited to all equestrian activities, where possible its use should be considered because of its effect in reducing the risk of lower back pain.
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