Traditional bonesetting practices in the Northwest Region of Cameroon

  • Bamidele J. Alegbeleye
Keywords: bone fractures, traditional medicine, allopathic medicine, health-seeking behaviour, Cameroon


Background: This study aimed to highlight the practice and dangers inherent in the practice of traditional bone setting in North-Western, Cameroon by traditional bone setters.

Methods: Interviews   using   questionnaires   were   administered   to   owners   of   traditional   bone   centers and     their clients respectively.  Five (5) of such centers were visited in Kumbo –Nso and their environs in the North-western region of Cameroon.

Results: All the traditional bonesetters had little or no formal education. All of them claimed ancestral/supernatural   inheritance   of   the   trade and   do   not   want   to disclose   any   secret.    There   was complete lack of knowledge of anatomy, physiology, complications, investigations and wound care. Advice of relatives and friends, as seen in 75 (30.6%) patients, was the most common reason for TBS patronage. Other reasons were cheaper cost (number [n] =60; 224.5%), sociocultural belief (n=35; 14.3%), easy accessibility (n=30; 12.4%), fear of amputation (n=25; 10.2%), and fear of operation (n=20; 8.2%). There was no correlation between these factors and age, marital status, occupation, and educational status (P=0.681). Ninety (36.7%) patients believed TBS were not useful, a nuisance (n=60; 24.6%), useful (n= 75; 30.7%), or indispensable (n=25; 10.3%). The opinion of patients about the outcome of TBS practice was:  excellent (n=72; 29.5%), good (n=113; 46.2%), acceptable (n=44; 17.8%) and poor (n=16; 6.5%).

Conclusions: The study established that traditional bonesetters enjoy a high patronage and confidence by the Cameroonians in general despite growing concerns by the biomedical practitioners. There is an urgent need for collaboration and integration of the traditional medicine and biomedical practices as advocated by the World Health Organization; so as to harness the gains by all and sundry. Functional health insurance for all citizens is mandatory.  Patients who are misguided by false beliefs can be better educated by public enlightenment.

Original Research