Spinal disorders are amongst the most serious, often devastating, painful and debilitating health problems impacting rural communities in developing countries (Chopra and Abdel-Nasser, 2008). The burden of musculoskeletal disorders in terms of disability-adjusted life years on the developing world is estimated to be almost 2.5 times that of the developed world (Adebajo and Gabriel, 2010; Adebajo et al., 2009). The World Health Organization states that musculo-skeletal conditions are the most common causes of severe pain and physical disability, affecting hundreds of millions of people across the world (Woolf & Pfleger, 2003).
The Scope of the Problem
In developing communities, traumatic spinal injury is a common and crippling consequence of falls and motor vehicles crashes (Chiu WT, Lin HC, 2010). The consequences of such injuries range from spinal fractures and spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis often requiring wheelchair assistance and bowel and bladder support (Gosselin RA, Coppotelli C, 2005) to chronic back and neck pain preventing people from working and earning a living.
Impact of Spinal Disorders in Africa and the Developing World
Musculoskeletal conditions have a major impact on society due to their frequency, chronic nature, and resultant disability (Woolf & Pfleger, 2003). They represent an enormous cost to the community in economic terms (Brooks, 2006). They are ranked in the top of the WHO’s priority for global burden of disease, and are the leading cause of long-term disability worldwide. The economic implications of spinal disorders can be particularly devastating for populations that depend on manual labour for survival.
Little to No Resources Available to Treat these Disorders
Populations in the developing world, and especially rural populations, have little to no access to healthcare resources to care for spinal disorders. They do not have access to neurologists, spine surgeons, rheumatologists, chiropractors or physical therapists. There are no comprehensive protocols or models of care available to enable health care workers to treat the spectrum of spinal disorders found in the developing world.