Chiropractic for the most vulnerable

Dr Kudzai Zvenyika, a chiropractor, speaking to patients in Gutu,Zimbabwe.

The burden of musculoskeletal disorders is greatest amongst the poor and elderly particularly those living in rural communities (1). In countries like Zimbabwe where a series of economic meltdowns have significantly decreased the quality of life of millions, the health inequality gap between the haves and the have nots has only widened. In 2018, after a tumultuous political period the economy took a downturn in the second half of the year with sadly familiar scenes of cholera outbreaks, food and petrol queues and the beginning signs of runaway inflation yet again. An eerily similar climate as that of the 2008 depression that rocked economies of the world. With several pharmacies across the country now only receiving cash payments for certain drugs in foreign currency at inflated prices, having a chronic condition such as hypertension or diabetes has become increasingly difficult to manage. This added even greater stress to an already ailing health care system. And like in most developing nations, the posture of many health care systems is that of damage control in addressing the most life-threatening diseases that leaves little energy to focus on less urgent but highly important musculoskeletal health. This is coupled with the general poor management of musculoskeletal health, particularly neck and back pain, by most health care systems around the globe (2). It is no wonder that there is an enormous burden of musculoskeletal disease is countries like Zimbabwe. In November 2018, a small group of Zimbabwean chiropractors set out on a mission trip to to rural Gutu, Zimbabwe to get a sense of this burden and alleviate it as best they can. Chiropractic is a little known profession in Zimbabwe with a handful of practitioners in the country in mostly urban settings. Literally meaning ‘done by hand’ chiropractors can help relieve a number of neuoromusculoskeletal disorders without a lot of overheads such as medications or surgical equipment. With no need for drugs or surgery for treatment, chiropractors can squarely place themselves at the centre of the global spinal health crisis with the ability to diagnose and offer treatment for a range of conditions. The potential impact of a low cost, low-tech intervention that has been proven to significantly impact on neuromusculoskeltal conditions (3) is enormous. As Spine Health Africa, we hope to continue to meaningfully alleviate the burden of spinal disorders in Zimbabwe beginning with the most vulnerable among us.

References:

1. Bulletin World Health Organ 2018;96:366–368 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.17.204891

2. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2003;81:677-683

3. Harvard Special Health report (2012) Low-Back Pain: Healing your Aching Back.

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