Content » Vol 48, Issue 5

Original report

Everyday burden of musculoskeletal conditions among villagers in rural Botswana: A focused ethnography

Maria Hondras, Jan Hartvigsen, Corrie Myburgh, Helle Johannessen
Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2083


Objective: To examine the perspectives of villagers in rural Botswana about the everyday life burden and impact of their musculoskeletal disorders.
Methods: Ethnographic fieldwork for 8 months included 55 in-depth interviews with 34 villagers. Interviews were typically conducted in Setswana with an interpreter. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim, with Setswana contextually translated into English. The theoretical lens included Bury’s biographical disruption, in which he distinguishes between “meaning as consequence” and “meaning as significance”.
Results: Interviews revealed co-existing accounts for the consequences and significance of musculoskeletal burden related to 3 themes: (i) hard work for traditional lives; (ii) bearing the load of a rugged landscape; and, (iii) caring for others with disrupted lives. Physical labour with musculoskeletal symptoms had economic and subsistence consequences. The loss of independence and social identity to fulfil traditional roles held meaning as significance. Outmigration for wage labour and other shifts in family structure compounded everyday musculoskeletal burden.
Conclusion: Uncovering burden is an important first step to address musculoskeletal care needs in developing country settings. Community-engaged partnerships are needed to develop rehabilitation programmes to ease the burden of musculoskeletal disorders in rural Botswana.

Lay Abstract


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