Background: Musculoskeletal diseases consume a large amount of health and social resources and are a major cause of disability in both low- and high-income countries. In addition, patients frequently present with co-morbid chronic diseases of lifestyle. The area of musculoskeletal disease is restricted by a lack of epidemiological knowledge, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
Objectives: This pragmatic randomised controlled trial assessed the benefits of a 6-week physiotherapy intervention for middle-aged women with musculoskeletal conditions compared to usual care.
Method: A weekly 2-h educational programme utilising a workbook, discussion group and exercise class was presented for the intervention group, while the control group received usual care. The primary outcome was health-related quality of life. Parametric and non-parametric data were used to determine the equivalence between the groups.
Results: Twenty-two participants were randomised to the intervention and 20 to the control group. The control group demonstrated no within-group improvement in health-related quality of life items, compared to significant improvements in two items in the intervention group. The change in median utility score within the intervention group was twice as large as the change in the control group. With regard to self-efficacy, the intervention group demonstrated significant within-group changes in perceived management of fatigue and discomfort.
Conclusion: The positive impact of the intervention on the participants suggests that the programme should continue at the clinic in question, but should be presented at a more convenient time for participants who work, as recruitment to the study was less than anticipated. Primary health care systems in South Africa urgently need to put structures in place for effective management of the functional impact of chronic diseases of lifestyle and musculoskeletal conditions. It is time for physiotherapists and possibly other health care professionals to participate in the development of appropriate community level interventions to address the functioning and quality of life of individuals living with the diseases.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019