"Our training left us unprepared"- two physiotherapists' reflections after working with women with low back pain in a rural Zulu community in South Africa

  • Victoria Madden
  • Peter O'Sullivan
  • Julia Fisher
  • Busisiwe Malambule

Abstract

Low back pain (LBP) is a major health disorder that has been researched thoroughly in the western world context, but poorly in the developing world. Back pain beliefs, assessment, and management strategies developed for the western world may have limited relevance for the developing world. This paper reflects on the experiences of two recent physiotherapy graduates working in a rural Zulu community in South Africa. It highlights the socioeconomic, lifestyle, and cultural influences on women who presented with LBP. The authors discuss the challenges they faced in adjusting from a largely western biomedical understanding of LBP to the rural Zulu context. The authors propose the need for a greater bio psychosocial understanding of LBP in a cultural socioeconomic context. Enhanced clinical skills are required to adapt across cultural beliefs, language and lifestyle contexts, for better management of LBP.

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