The benefits and harms of surgical and non-surgical treatment approaches

Meet Inger Mechlenburg


“How can we improve health and quality of life among patients with musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis?”


This is the main question for Professor in Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, Inger Mechlenburg, born 1971, to answer. Her research goal is to fill knowledge gaps on optimal rehabilitation or exercise interventions for these patients.

She started out as a PhD student performing studies that investigated outcomes in young patients with hip dysplasia who were offered a joint preserving treatment to improve pain and function and to postpone the development of osteoarthritis. In her years as a postdoc and as an associate professor, Inger Mechlenburg became increasingly more interested in investigating exercise interventions and rehabilitation interventions.

According to Inger Mechlenburg there is high need for clinical studies that investigate the effectiveness of exercise interventions to patients with musculoskeletal diseases, such as osteoarthritis.

Exercise is effective

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of disability worldwide and is becoming more prevalent in the ageing and increasingly obese population, placing a burden on the health-care system and resulting in increased economic costs.

“Exercise is feasible and effective in patients with osteoarthritis, even in those with moderate to severe osteoarthritis who are eligible for total knee or total hip replacement and possibly in those who are eligible for total shoulder replacement. l support the development, piloting and testing of treatments for common and costly musculoskeletal problems in primary and secondary care, including hip, knee and shoulder pain,” she says.

International research collaboration

Her aim is to develop and test the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of different exercise interventions with focus on strengthening exercises.

Inger Mechlenburg works together with interdisciplinary teams on multicenter randomized trials, some of them recruiting patients from hospitals in other Scandinavian countries, with the aim to investigate the effectiveness of exercise interventions to patients with hip, knee or shoulder osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tear arthropathy, femoroacetabular impingement and hip dysplasia.

In four of these studies, they randomize the patients to either surgical or non-surgical treatment. Moreover, she works on a multicenter randomized trial that aims to investigate the effectiveness of supervised rehabilitation after shoulder fractures.

“There is interest by international researchers in participating in our multi-centre trials, both among physiotherapists and orthopeadic surgeons. This indicates that it is indeed relevant to perform the studies where we compare surgical to non-surgical treatments in patients with musculoskeletal disorders,” Inger Mechlenburg says and continues:

“Also we have managed as a team to give confidence to several funders that there is high likelihood that we will produce something important, if they give us the funding. This is especially evident for the clinical studies where we randomize patients to surgical or non-surgical treatment and supplement the trials with health-economic evaluations,” Inger Mechlenburg says.