Knee and shoulder surgery myths

Knee and shoulder surgery myths

Separating fact from fiction: Orthopaedic myths in knee and shoulder surgery

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Knee and shoulder surgery myths

Consultation rumours: An orthopaedic surgeon’s perspective on common beliefs

As a knee and shoulder surgeon in Perth, I often hear common beliefs about shoulder pain or knee treatments during consultations. These myths often are amplified online and it’s important to address them for a clearer understanding. Here’s a list of 6 common myths.

Myth 1: Shoulder pain is usually caused by bursitis

When patients come in saying, “I have bursitis”, it’s often based on an ultrasound or a referral from their GP. It’s a common first thought when it comes to shoulder pain. However, the truth is, it’s not always shoulder bursitis (which is the inflammation of the bursae, those little sacs in your shoulder joints that help reduce friction​).

Sometimes, the real issue might be something like a frozen shoulder, where the joint becomes really stiff and painful. Or it could be a rotator cuff tear, which is when the tendons in the shoulder are damaged, often due to injury or wear and tear. Another possibility is osteoarthritis, that wear-and-tear type of arthritis that generally starts causing trouble around middle age.

“That’s why I do my own scans. I want to know for sure and an MRI is the best diagnostic tool for shoulder pain. It provides high-resolution images of soft tissues, tendons and ligaments and that’s crucial for diagnosing conditions like rotator cuff tears, tendonitis and other soft tissue abnormalities.”

Dr Sven Goebel | Shoulder surgeon Perth
Dr Sven Goebel

Myth 2: Shoulder replacement surgery is extremely painful and hard to recover from

When patients hear they may need shoulder replacement surgery, it is very natural to think it is going to be painful and tough to recover from. Luckily, the reality is different. Most people actually find they have less pain than before the shoulder surgery, and some don’t have any pain at all.

The recovery from shoulder replacement surgery involves physical therapy, which starts almost immediately after the operation. It’s a gradual process but by doing exercises frequently, patients generally see a big improvement in their shoulder movement and strength. Of course it takes effort and time but with this structured approach, many patients get back to their daily activities and even enjoy sports like golf or swimming without pain.

Myth 3: Physiotherapy is helpful for frozen shoulder syndrome

Let’s start by mentioning that this is a controversial topic and that not everyone agrees this is a myth. There is a common belief that physiotherapy is the go-to treatment for frozen shoulder but I believe it’s not that simple. I’ve seen many cases where patients had intensive physiotherapy without success.

It turns out that sometimes doing less, like gentle exercises and also skilful neglect, can be more effective.

As a matter of fact, frozen shoulder generally resolves on its own but it may take up to 2 years. Surgical procedures like manipulation under anaesthesia or arthroscopic release can speed up this process. I am not saying that surgery for frozen shoulder should be the first treatment option. It’s just that intensive physiotherapy is not the golden grail either.

Myth 4: Robotic knee surgery is superior to traditional methods

Some patients come in and believe they need robotic knee surgery because it is better than traditional knee surgery. However, recent studies show mixed results. Yes, you may leave the hospital faster after robotic knee surgery, but according to a Cleveland Clinic study, traditional knee surgery led to better knee flexion after the operation.

When it comes to pain, complications, or the need to redo the surgery, both methods have similar results. This highlights that the knee surgeon’s skills and experience should not be underestimated when it comes to successful outcomes. In knee surgery, it’s not so much about the tools, but how they are used and by whom.

Myth 5: Returning to high-level activities is impossible after rotator cuff tear repair

Some patients believe that they won’t be able to engage in high-level activities once they’ve undergone rotator cuff tear repair. Fortunately, that is not true. Yes, recovery after rotator cuff repair requires time but it is definitely possible to regain the strength and mobility they need to return back to demanding physical activities or high-level sports. The key to success lies in committing to a well-structured rehab process.

Myth 6: A rotator cuff tear diagnosis via ultrasound is always accurate

As a shoulder surgeon, I often see patients who have received a rotator cuff tear diagnosis based on an ultrasound. The truth is, in about 50% of these cases further investigation reveals it’s not a rotator cuff tear. How is that possible, you may wonder? Ultrasound results can be subjective, depending on the operator’s skills. To ensure accuracy, I rely on MRI scans; they are considered the gold standard for detecting soft tissue abnormalities. This approach helps prevent misdiagnosis and leads to appropriate treatment and better outcomes.

Dr Sven Goebel

In summary, it’s important to understand the facts about shoulder and knee surgery. Let’s have a conversation, so you can make the best choices for your shoulder or knee problems. Request an appointment here.