Musculoskeletal disorders are very common and almost inevitable in an individual's lifetime. Enabling self-management and allowing the individual to take responsibility for care is stated as desired in the management of these disorders, but this may be asking more than people can generally manage. A willingness among people to take responsibility for musculoskeletal disorders and not place responsibility out of their hands or on employers but to be shared with medical professionals has been shown. The aim of the present study was to describe how people with musculoskeletal disorders think and reason regarding responsibility for prevention, treatment and management of the disorder.
Individual interviews with a strategic sample of 20 individuals with musculoskeletal disorders were performed. The interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed according to qualitative content analysis.
From the interviews an overarching theme was identified: own responsibility needs to be met. The analysis revealed six interrelated categories: Taking on responsibility, Ambiguity about responsibility, Collaborating responsibility, Complying with recommendations, Disclaiming responsibility, and Responsibility irrelevant. These categories described different thoughts and reasoning regarding the responsibility for managing musculoskeletal disorders. Generally the responsibility for prevention of musculoskeletal disorders was described to lie primarily on society/authorities as they have knowledge of what to prevent and how to prevent it. When musculoskeletal disorders have occurred, health care should provide fast accessibility, diagnosis, prognosis and support for recovery. For long-term management, the individuals themselves are responsible for making the most out of life despite disorders.
No matter what the expressions of responsibility for musculoskeletal disorders are, own responsibility needs to be met by society, health care, employers and family in an appropriate way, with as much or as little of the "right type" of support needed, based on the individual's expectations.