My name is Anne Marit Mengshoel. I am educated as a physiotherapist with a speciality in manual therapy. For about ten years, I was working in a private physiotherapy institute in primary health care, and then afterwards about 15 years in a hospital specialized in rheumatology as a teacher for physiotherapy students, PhD student and leader of developmental work within physiotherapy. Since, the year 2000 I have been working in the Department of Health Sciences at the Medical Faculty of the University of Oslo, Norway – the last 15 years as a Professor. My research is inspired by my clinical work experiences as a manual therapist in primary health care and as a physiotherapist in a multidisciplinary rehabilitation context; i.e. applied clinical science. Over the years, I have also been inspired from my close collaborations with scholars with different backgrounds as health professionals and with various specialities within medicine, as well as from biology, social sciences and humanities. In my research, I have been trying out various research designs within qualitative and quantitative methodology. Being a member of research evaluation boards in Norway and England, as well as an EU Cost group, I have developed a broad insight into health sciences in general.
My research interest is in particular rehabilitation of chronic musculoskeletal illnesses and diseases. My PhD thesis addressed fibromyalgia (FM), and later my particular interest became to understand how it is like from a patient perspective to live with such an illness, how fatigue is experienced and managed, and what processes former patients consider relevant for their becoming symptom-free (their recovery experiences and healing work). In developing my understanding of the contested, medically unexplained condition of FM and other persistent, medically unspecified musculoskeletal conditions, I have been exploring and comparing their experiences with those of patients with well-defined, autoimmune diseases, for example ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjøgren’s syndrome.
Presently, I am leading a study where a multidisciplinary rehabilitation team at a rheumatism hospital and researchers collaborate in developing and trying out a new rehabilitation program for patients with FM. In this work, we have incorporated evidence from qualitative studies about patients’ illness and recovery experiences. We have also examined our own developmental process and identified ambivalences and paradoxes experienced by clinicians in their work with contested illnesses in contrast to autoimmune diseases. In parallel, I am leading a study among scientists in the research group ‘Self-management’ that I am heading. In this study, we are doing a systematic literature research on how health professionals experience working with chronic illnesses, in this context diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. I am also just about to complete a paper where I have studied what makes it meaningful to attend physiotherapy by long-time users in primary health care. The narrative analysis of these users’ experiences is captured by the story-line ‘It takes time, but recovering makes it worthwhile’.
I have always had a critical eye on the development of physiotherapy practice. My drive has been that physiotherapy seems to lack a language for wording what it is actually about. I experienced as a teacher for physiotherapy students in clinical practice how complex physiotherapy practice is and accordingly to teach students how to practice it. Teachers recognize good practice by observing it, but it is still difficult to describe why a practice is found good or not good enough. During recent years, the evidence-based movement provides information for clinicians about what is best practice. But if this movement should dictate what good physiotherapy practice should look like, the definition of good practice become too simplified. This kind of evidence will only tell what should be delivered, but not how to deliver it and relate to patients in clinical encounters which I think are important ingredients of good clinical practice. As one of my informants expressed it: ‘patients cannot be treated according to a book.’
By reading theories developed within social sciences, as well as collaborating with medical sociologists and humanists, I am progressing in my ambition to become able to word some of the implicit knowledge in physiotherapy. Translating theories from other fields into physiotherapy has been a rather lonely process. But CPN has shown that there are several physiotherapists worldwide that share my concern about the development of physiotherapy theory and practice. Through mutual efforts and by supporting each other I have a vision that we can be strong enough to nurture the future development of physiotherapy. That is why I joined CPN.
Relevant critical publications:
Mengshoel AM. Living with a fluctuating illness of ankylosing spondylitisArthr Rheum 2008; 59, 10: 1439-44. (Invited paper Special issue on Rehabilitation)
Mengshoel AM. Mixed methods research – So far easier said than done? Manual Ther 2012; 17: 373-5.
Ahlsen B, Bondevik H, Mengshoel AM, Solbrække KN. (Un)doing gender: A narrative analysis of men’s and women’s stories of chronic pain. Disabil Rehabil 2014; 36; 5: 359-66.
Mengshoel AM, Norheim KB, Omdal R. Primary Sjögren’s syndrome – fatigue is an ever-present, fluctuating and uncontrollable lack of energy. Arthritis Care Res 2014; 66: 1227-32.
Grape H, Solbrække KN, Kirkevold M, Mengshoel AM. Staying recovered from fibromyalgia – an ongoing hard work. Qual Health Research 2015; 25: 679-88.
Bjorbækmo WS, Mengshoel AM. “A touch of physiotherapy” – the significance and meaning of touch in the practice of physiotherapy. Phys Ther Theory Pract 2016; 32: 1-10.
Mengshoel AM, Grape HE. Rethinking physiotherapy for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome – lessons learnt from qualitative studies. Phys Ther Reviews 2017; 22:254-59.
Ahlsen B, Mengshoel AM, Bondevik H, Engebretsen E. Physiotherapists as detectives; investigating clues and plots in the clinical encounter. Medical Humanities 2018; 44: 40-45.
Mengshoel AM, Sim J, Ahlsen B, Madden S. Diagnostic experiences of patients with fibromyalgia syndrome – a metaethnography. Chron Illn (e-pub ahead Jan 2017)
Sallinen M, Mengshoel AM. ‘I just want my life back’ – men’s narratives about living with fibromyalgia. Disabil Rehabil (e-pub ahead Oct 2017)
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location (city/town, country): Oslo, Norway
Current position(s): Professor at the University of Oslo