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ORIGINAL ARTICLE Table of Contents   
Year : 2009  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 52-56

Musculoskeletal disorders: Epidemiology and treatment seeking behavior of secondary school students in a Nigerian community

1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, Obafemi Awolowo University, College of Health Sciences, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria
2 Department of Community Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, College of Health Sciences, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Olayinka O Adegbehingbe
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, Obafemi Awolowo University, College of Health Sciences, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Ile-Ife - 220005, Osun State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-0218.44520

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Background: Epidemiological information paucity exists on musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) among secondary school students in Nigeria. We aimed to determine prevalence, pattern, and treatment seeking behaviors (TSB) of MSD in south-west Nigeria. Materials and Methods: A school-based cross sectional study was conducted in four randomly selected secondary schools in Ile-Ife in 2007. All the students were screened for MSD using interviewer-administered questionnaire and physical examination, which involved use of scoliometer and goniometer. Affected children were recommended for treatment and plain radiography taken. Results: A total of 133 students had 204 MSD representing 3.0% prevalence among the 4,441students screened. Eighty-one (60.9%) students had congenital disorders and 52 (39.1%) were acquired. The lower limbs (93.1%) were most commonly affected and 87 (65.4%) students presented with knee deformity. Other abnormalities were limb length discrepancy 6.8%, scoliosis 4.4%, pes planus 3.9%, and poliomyelitis 2.9%. One hundred students (75.2%) had no form of treatment, 18.8% receive treatment in the hospital, 3.7% in traditional healing home and 2.3% in church. Age, family, and school type were significant factors ( P <0.05) in health seeking behavior. The factors affecting treatment outcome were the place of treatment, hospital specific treatment, and reasons for stopping treatment. Conclusion: Treatable cases constitute a large proportion of MSD among secondary school students, but TSB was generally poor. Parental socio-economic and health services factors were related to the health seeking behavior. Strengthening of school health services and improved linkage with orthopedic services, community education on MSD, and education of all cadres of health professionals are recommended.

Keywords: Epidemiology, musculoskeletal disorder, school, screening, treatment

How to cite this article:
Adegbehingbe OO, Fatusi AO, Adegbenro CA, Adeitan OO, Abass GO, Akintunde A. Musculoskeletal disorders: Epidemiology and treatment seeking behavior of secondary school students in a Nigerian community. Indian J Community Med 2009;34:52-6

How to cite this URL:
Adegbehingbe OO, Fatusi AO, Adegbenro CA, Adeitan OO, Abass GO, Akintunde A. Musculoskeletal disorders: Epidemiology and treatment seeking behavior of secondary school students in a Nigerian community. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2009 [cited 2022 Aug 9];34:52-6. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2009/34/1/52/44520

   Introduction Top

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) constitute an important health problem globally. Injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system account for more than 20% of patient visits to primary care and emergency medical practitioners in United State of America. [1] In Africa and developing countries, poverty with its attendant malnutrition, infectious diseases, ignorance and inadequate medical facilities are all associated with the occurrence of MSD. [2],[3],[4],[5],[6]

Screening programs can identify most cases of previously undiagnosed orthopedic abnormalities, improve our knowledge of the prevalence and pattern of MSD. It can lead to early diagnosis which often is beneficial in altering the natural history of disease. [7],[8],[9]

The Bone and Joint Decade (2000-2010) has been launched to increase the awareness, encourage research and international cooperation in the prevention and treatment of MSD. [10] This study aimed at determining the prevalence, pattern of MSD, and treatment seeking behavior among secondary school students in Ile-Ife, South-west Nigeria.

   Materials and Methods Top

The study was conducted in Ife Central Local Government Area (LGA) of Osun State, Nigeria. The LGA has an estimated population of 96,580 from the National Population Commission data. The LGA has its headquarters in Ile-Ife, though a university town is mainly semi-urban in nature. The town has twenty secondary schools made up of twelve private and eight public schools. The total population of students enrolled was 15,180 for the 2006/2007 academic session.

Stratified sampling approach was used to select study schools to ensure that both private and public schools were represented as the socio-economic background of the students attending the two groups of schools may be significantly different. A total of four schools were selected: two public schools (Urban Day Grammar School and Oduduwa College) and two private schools (Ibikunle Lawal College and Adventist Grammar school). In each school, all the students were targeted for screening for MSD after the school authority had given approval for the study and informed consent obtained from student above 18 year or parents/guardians of those under 18 years. Participation rate was 100%. Information on the socioeconomic background and medical history of the respondents was obtained through the use of questionnaires administered by trained final year students. Physical examination was carried out by one of the researchers, an orthopedic surgeon (AOO), and involved also the use of stadiometer, weighing balance, scoliometer and goniometer. The footprint ratio or arch index - the ratio of the middle third of the toeless footprint to the total toeless footprint area [11] - was used to quantify pes planus deformity. Individualized plain radiography was taken at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching hospitals Complex, Ile-Ife, to confirm deformity and determine Cobb Meyer's angles in scoliosis. Clinical photographs were also used to document some of the significant findings.

Data collection took place from July to October 2007. The sample size taken was appropriate to calculate prevalence in this population. The sample size was determined using the Armittage and Perry formula { n = p (1- p ) z 2 / d 2} of single proportion. Where minimum sample size required was ( n =384.2) while taken the prevalence ( p ) of MSD among Nigerian secondary students to be 50% based on non available previous study data, standard normal deviation ( z ) set at 1.96 corresponding to 95% confidence interval and the degree of accuracy ( d ) was set at 5%. Data analysis was carried out through the use of SPSS software (version 11.0). Chi-square was used to determine association between discrete variables such as selected factors and health seeking behavior. The alpha error was 0.05 and level of significance p value <0.05.

   Results Top

A total of 4,441 secondary school students were screened, comprising of 2449 (55.1%) males and 1992 (44.9%) females [Table 1]. The mean age of the students was 13.5 year±4.4 year (range: 9-22year). A total of 133 (3.0%) had musculoskeletal deformities. The total number of MSD cases detected was 204. The age range of students with MSD was 9 to 20 years, with a mean of 14.1 years and standard deviation of 3.6 years. There were 73 (2.8%) males and 60 (3.0%) females who had MSD. The male: female ratio of students with MSD was 6: 5.

[Table 1] shows the distribution of MSD among affected students. A total of 93 students (69.9%) had their deformity in the lower limbs followed by the upper limbs 27 (20.3%). The congenital cases constituted 60.9% of cases and most cases of MSD was bilateral (53.4%). The pattern of MSD is shown in [Table 2] and [Table 3]. Scoliosis was mainly non-structural among seven students (3.4%) while the remaining two students (1.0%) had structural scoliosis sequel to post poliomyelitis paralysis. Scoliosis was twice common in the females compared to the males. Postural scoliosis was seen in four subjects and three had compensatory scoliosis due to the limb length discrepancy and pelvic inequality. The scoliosis was mild to moderate without any respiratory embarrassment reported by the students affected.

Most (80.4%) of the MSD affected the lower limb while 13.2% and 6.4% were located in the upper limbs, the central (spine and pelvis), respectively. Approximately two-thirds (65.4%) of the students with MSD had knee deformities (genu varum-53.9%, genu valgum-11.8% and knock knee-7.8%). The pattern of the MSD varies between students of private and public schools. The public schools accounted for genu varum (53.0%), genu valgum (65.2%), limb length discrepancy (76.9%), scoliosis (83.3%), polydactyl (85.7%), and pelvic obliquity (66.7%). All cases of syndactyl, poliomyelitis, kyphosis, kyphoscoliosis and Erb's palsy were seen only in the public schools. 76.9% of the knocked knee was predominant in private school. Painless pes planus was seen among 8 (6.0%; males=3, females=5; age: 14-16year) students. The males had a higher arch index greater than the females, the difference was not significant ( P >0.05).

The treatment seeking behavior among students screened in [Table 4] shows that only 33 (24.8%) had previous treatment; 93 (69.9%) had no treatment and 7 (5.3%) did not know their treatment history. Out of those that had previous treatment, twenty-five students (18.8%) received treatment from hospitals while five (3.7%) received treatment from traditional healers and three (2.3 %) from churches. A higher proportion of students from private schools (14 of 58 MSD students; 24.1%) compared to those in public schools (11 of 75 MSD students; 14.7%) sought for hospital treatment. Occupation of the parents did not have significant impact on the treatment seeking behavior ( P =0.685). 20.6% of the civil servant children with MSD had no treatment. 35.1% of the students whose mothers were traders had no form of treatment as compared with the 13.2% of those whose fathers were traders had no treatment. 18.4% students with orthopedic disorders that were under 16 years sought for treatment in contrast to the 6.1% in the age group 16-20 years ( P < 0.037). All the six (100%) students with deformities whose parents were separated or divorced had no form of treatment, while 21.3% of those with parents (polygamy/monogamy) alive sourced for treatment.

The type of treatment had varied with pattern of MSD. The students with structural scoliosis, post poliomyelitis and congenital non-syndromic talipes equinovarum deformity received different multiple treatment. Among those that sought treatment from health facilities, three (12.0%) had soft tissue operations (elongation of tendo-achilles). 15 (60.0%) had drugs given, 6 (24.0%) had plaster of Paris and 9 (36.0%) received physiotherapy. The treatments were not exclusive of one another. One-third (8 students, 32%) of those that sought hospital treatment did not complete prescribed treatment. Three of the five students treated by the traditional healers said that the treatments offered were difficult and did not complete their treatment. Out of those that received hospital treatment, 16 (64%) were of the opinion that their cases improved while 6 (24%) felt their condition deteriorated and 3 (12.0 %) did not notice any change. The six students who reported poor outcome were cases of severe deformities from paralytic poliomyelitis 5 (19.2%), and Erb's palsy 1 (3.8%). The factors affecting treatment of the six students who did not complete their treatment mainly was as a result of financial problem and the logistics that the lengthy period of treatment entailed. The other reasons were, parents not having time for further treatment and that nobody was available to stay with the student at hospital. A total of 128 of the 133 (96.2%) students with MSD indicated interest in obtaining appropriate treatment if such could be made available to them. When they were followed up immediately, 4.0% of the student who had not received any form of treatment informed their parents and had surgery (Corrective osteotomies-3; triple ankle arthrodesis-1) with uneventful outcome at the teaching hospital.

   Discussion Top

Determination of the prevalence and pattern of musculoskeletal symptoms is the first step in the effective intervention and prevention of further chronic pain syndromes in young adults. [9],[12] Our study has assessed the prevalence and pattern of MSD in Nigerian population and provided evidence that could inform appropriate interventions. With the paucity of locally available work that focused on community-based secondary schools, our study is a pioneering work in the Nigerian environment and can serve as benchmark values.

The characteristics of student population screened revealed a good mix of socio-economic background as students from both private and public schools were included in the study. The preponderance of males than females may be a reflection of the entire population pattern of enrollment in the schools. The recent rapid assessment of the primary school health system in Nigeria [13] showed enrollment data and MSD prevalence to be similar to our study result. The inability to carry out genetic studies due to lack of resources make it impossible to rule out disorders at microscopic level among the majority of our subjects that were not found to have macroscopic MSD. The higher rate of MSD among public schools compared with private schools is likely to be due to the effect of the socioeconomic background, as mostly children of parents in the lower socio-economic class attend public schools in Ile-Ife as in most parts of Nigeria. Congenital MSD is more preponderant than acquired deformity in this study which agreed with the findings of Thanni and Folami in another study carried out in South-west Nigeria, [13] although their study was hospital-based and 60% of their study population was under-5 years. The congenital disorders identified among secondary school may likely be a reflection of factors, particularly ignorance of the conditions, lack of knowledge about treatment possibilities and appropriate treatment sources, inability to afford orthodox care, and poor health seeking behavior.

Whereas MSD in our study was found predominantly in the lower limb followed by the upper limbs and the spine, respectively, Whittfield et al. reported that musculoskeletal symptoms were more prevalent in the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back among secondary schools in New Zealand. [14] The carriage of heavy schoolbags was a suspected contributory factor among the New Zealand secondary school students, which is not the case in the Nigerian environment. In our study, genu varum, genu valgum, knock knee accounted for majority of MSD among the students screened. Earlier work among Nigerian population, consisting mostly of pre-school children, [13],[15] had reported knee deformity as being the most prevalent MSD. The persistence of knock knee to secondary school level could be due to indifference to cosmetic appearance and the fact that no mortality is associated with knee deformity in an environment where high level of child mortality from various communicable diseases and poverty obtains. Our study showed that the prevalence of pes planus and arch index is similar to the findings among Malawians. [11]

The overall prevalence of spine deformities (scoliosis and/or thoracic hyperkyphosis) reported in this study was similar to the 7.8% adolescents with scoliosis reported by Milenkovic et al. 2004. [12] The prevalence of scoliosis similar to our findings was two times higher in girls compared with boys. [12],[16],[17]

The treatment seeking behaviors was generally found to be poor in our study, with the majority of affected students found not to have had any form of treatment. This is in contrast to finding in more developed parts of the world such as United States, where most pupils were reported to have received considerable amount of professional attention. [18],[19],[20] The fact that 5.3% of students did not know their treatment history reflects a low level of health communication between these students and their parents. Inclusion of parents in the study would have made it possible for us to have more complete treatment history of the children and better insights into reasons for treatment seeking decisions and behaviors.

The significant difference between treatment seeking patterns among school children in private and public schools reflect the possibility that parental socio-economic factors plays a significant role in decisions for treatment seeking. It was interesting to note that none of the affected students in private schools sought treatment from churches and traditional healers. The fact that none of the children from unstable family setting had sought treatment also reflects another dimension of parental background to treatment seeking. The relevance of socio-economic level of parents to treatment was further reflected in the fact that inability to afford medical bill was a major reason for inability to complete prescribed treatment. There is absence of functioning effective, affordable and accessible national health insurance scheme. Several other factors in the health system could also have been contributory to the poor treatment behavior observed. These include: inaccessibility of specialist services with the low number of orthopedic surgeons and traumatologists available in the country; ineffective school health services; and lack of effective social medical services particularly to support those severe deformities secondary to paralytic poliomyelitis and Erb's palsy.

   Conclusion and Recommendations Top

Treatable cases constitute a large proportion of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) among secondary students in Nigeria. Parental socio-economic and health services factors were related to the poor health seeking behavior. This could be improved through community education, early detection, and linkage of school health services to facility-based orthopedic services as a major approach.

   References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

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