Patient patronage and perspectives of traditional bone setting at an outpatient orthopaedic clinic in Northern Tanzania

  • Elizabeth B Card
  • Joy E Obayemi
  • Octavian Shirima
  • Praveen Rajaguru
  • Honest Massawe
  • Ajay Premkumar
  • Neil P Sheth
Keywords: Bone setting; traditional medicine; traditional practitioners; orthopaedics;


Background: Much of Sub-Saharan Africa meets the rising rates of musculoskeletal injury with traditional bone setting, especially given limitations in access to allopathic orthopaedic care. Concern for the safety of bone setter practices as well as recognition of their advantages have spurred research to understand the impact of these healers on public health.

Objectives: Our study investigates the role of bone setting in Tanzania through patient utilization and perspectives.

Methods: We surveyed 212 patients at the outpatient orthopaedic clinic at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Moshi, Tanzania. Surveys were either self-administered or physician-administered. Summary statistics were calculated using XLSTAT. Open responses were analyzed using a deductive framework method.

Results: Of all surveys, 6.3% (n=13) reported utilizing traditional bone setting for their injury prior to presenting to KCMC. Of the self-administered surveys, 13.6% (n=6) reported utilizing bone setting compared to 4.3% (n=7) of the physician-ad- ministered surveys (p=0.050). Negative perceptions of bone setting were more common than positive perceptions and the main reason patients did not utilize bone setting was concern for competency (35.8%, n=67).

Conclusion: Our study found lower bone setting utilization than expected considering the reliance of Tanzanians on tradi- tional care reported in the literature. This suggests patients utilizing traditional care for musculoskeletal injury are not seeking allopathic care; therefore, collaboration with bone setters could expand allopathic access to these patients. Patients were less likely to report bone setter utilization to a physician revealing the stigma of seeking traditional care, which may present an obstacle for collaboration.

Keywords: Bone setting; traditional medicine; traditional practitioners; orthopaedics; trauma.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1680-6905