Episode 84 - Birgitta Öberg: The New Physiotherapy Roles


Professor Birgitta Öberg

Professor Öberg has held the position as Head of Department of Medical and Health Sciences for over 10 years at Linköping University, and since 2001 has been a Professor in Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, Sweden. Since 2009, Professor Öberg has been a member of the Board of Swedish Research Council and since 2013, the Chair. Professor Öberg has been working within clinical research for the past 20 years. The research has been mostly on neck, shoulder and low back problems, including studies on mechanism, classification prognosis and interventions. The aim of the research programme is to further develop knowledge on how factors such as clinical symptoms, patients resources for movement, function, as well as behavioural and personal factors such as attitudes, motivation, and work ability can be included in clinical reasoning, decision-making and development of Evidence Based Practice. Professor Öberg has tutored over 20 doctorate students with different backgrounds.


Show Notes


Professional Background

Birgitta began her education at Gothenburg, Sweden to become a physiotherapist.  Initially she didn’t have any particular interest in research and turned down a position in research.  She describes the beginning of her career in Linköping, Sweden in orthopedics and the wide range of treatment that was “allowed” and not allowed by different orthopedic surgeons but that varied from physician to physician and from setting to setting.  


She shares how she was offered to do her thesis on sports injuries and orthopedics and she accepted.  She reflects on the limitations from her supervisors and on the lack of opportunities to make her own decisions in those days.  


Dr. Öberg explains where her efforts are now and on what topics she’s pursuing additional studies both in terms of body part and work in implementation science which she explains further.



Findings Related to Classification

Dr. Öberg comments on the work she oversaw with Mark Laslett and Charles Aprill .  She gives some of her thoughts on MDT including how she sees its importance and the importance of identifying the tissue where symptoms are originating or is function more important. 



Comments on the Disc Model

Birgitta clarifies what she appreciates about some of the principles that MDT includes especially repeated movements.  She gives a word of caution about how much we should use the disc model. 



Cervical Radiculopathy vs Exercise

Dr. Öberg differentiates expectations of needed and effective care for acute versus chronic radiculopathy.  In the chronic population she describes her recent work comparing surgical versus nonsurgical care.  She shares what of the findings was most interesting to her.  She feels this paper supports physiotherapy should be a first line treatment.    



Prediction for Return to Work

Prof. Öberg has been involved in reviewing the literature related to return to work with patients with low back pain.  She shares the factors that influence the return to work.  Some findings she found were surprising. 


Finally, she gives a bit of a sneak peak of future works she anticipates working on and publishing.