Musculoskeletal disorders are a major burden on individuals, health systems and social care systems and rehabilitation efforts in these disorders are considerable. Self-care is often considered a cost effective treatment alternative owing to limited health care resources. But what are the expectations and attitudes in this question in the general population? The purpose of this study was to describe general attitudes to responsibility for the management of musculoskeletal disorders and to explore associations between attitudes and background variables.
A cross-sectional, postal questionnaire survey was carried out with a random sample of a general adult Swedish population of 1770 persons. Sixty-one percent (n = 1082) responded to the questionnaire and was included for the description of general attitudes towards responsibility for the management of musculoskeletal disorders. For the further analyses of associations to background variables 683–693 individuals could be included. Attitudes were measured by the "Attitudes regarding Responsibility for Musculoskeletal disorders" (ARM) instrument, where responsibility is attributed on four dimensions; to myself, as being out of my hands, to employers or to (medical) professionals. Multiple logistic regression was used to explore associations between attitudes to musculoskeletal disorders and the background variables age, sex, education, physical activity, presence of musculoskeletal disorders, sick leave and whether the person had visited a care provider.
A majority of participants had internal views, i.e. showed an attitude of taking personal responsibility for musculoskeletal disorders, and did not place responsibility for the management out of their own hands or to employers. However, attributing shared responsibility between self and medical professionals was also found.
The main associations found between attitude towards responsibility for musculoskeletal disorders and investigated background variables were that physical inactivity (OR 2.92–9.20), musculoskeletal disorder related sick leave (OR 2.31–3.07) and no education beyond the compulsory level (OR 3.12–4.76) increased the odds of attributing responsibility externally, i.e placing responsibility on someone or something else.
Respondents in this study mainly saw themselves as responsible for managing musculoskeletal disorders. The associated background variables refined this finding and one conclusion is that, to optimise outcome when planning the prevention, treatment and management of these disorders, people's attitudes should be taken into account.