A Pain Free Active Lifestyle

Whether you’re sidelined by injury or stricken with arthritis, orthopedic specialists in Madison can help. These specialists stay ahead of a swift curve of advancements in bone, joint and ligament health—particularly advancements being made in treating active adults.

“It’s one thing to make the diagnosis of tendonitis or a stress fracture or arthritis. It’s quite another to take the time and go through what happened, why it’s happening, and what can be done to change it so that you can get back to exercising and normal activity,” says Dr. Don Wackwitz, who practices with the private-practice orthopedic office of John S. Rogerson, M.D. and Don L. Wackwitz, M.D. Wackwitz is one of only two doctors in Madison who is board certified in both orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. This dual certification sharpens Wackwitz’s focus on a portion of the population he says is currently underserved: the adult athlete.

“We’re well covered when it comes to college and high school sports, but we really have a need for care in adult sports medicine,” says Wackwitz, who spent 25 years as a physician for high school and college teams, and currently serves on the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s sports medicine advisory committee. “That is the recreational athlete, the person out of school that plays team sports, or those that just value fitness and exercise.”

The good news is that more and more adults are turning to regular exercise to improve their health and quality of life. The bad news is that this trend increases a person’s risk of injury, whether by exacerbating old aches and pains from high school sports or by causing new injuries—often brought on by mechanics or patterns. But Wackwitz says many sports medicine conditions are either preventable or highly treatable and, contrary to popular belief, surgery is often not the answer.

“It’s amazing how many things can be treated conservatively,” says Wackwitz, who encourages people to come in for an evaluation at the onset of pain or issues. “The most important thing is to come to the office and get the information. They can always make the decision as to whether they want it or not, but, boy, they’ll be amazed at how many people don’t need surgery with injuries. So many things can be treated with rehabilitation, physical therapy, bracing, and a lot of other types of modalities short of having surgery.”

At Rogerson and Wackwitz, the emphasis is on getting the right information into the hands of each patient. The team offers comprehensive care for shoulder, hip and knee sports medicine injuries, covering everything from minimally invasive arthroscopic outpatient surgery to major reconstructive and joint replacement procedures, plus both preventative and rehabilitative techniques including exercise, nutritional supplementation and physical therapy. Wackwitz specializes in knees and shoulders, and John Rogerson’s hip-resurfacing patients have gone on to compete in IronMan competitions.

“We want patients to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, and participate fully in the process,” says Wackwitz. “There are all sorts of new discoveries and procedures being developed every day, and we are changing the way we do things to make it less invasive, less painful and [bring about a] quicker recovery. It’s a very dynamic and exciting field.”


Focus on: Shoulder Surgery

Fast-forward ten or twenty years, though, and surgery may become increasingly necessary for aging athletes and non-athletes alike. Surgeons say that many patients will be surprised by the array of available surgical options, thanks to significant advancements in the field. Take, for example, shoulder arthritis.

“I think it’s important for patients to know that shoulder replacement has become a good option. We’ve definitely started to see better results,” says Dr. Amy Franta of Meriter Orthopedic Clinic, who encourages her patients to visit early, in the beginning stages of pain and decreased motion, to connect with an orthopedic surgeon who can talk about options and monitor progression of the problem. “I just saw someone in my office today who was told 20 years ago there was nothing we could do for her shoulder arthritis, and that was true back then,” Franta says. “It simply isn’t true today.”

Shoulder arthritis can be difficult to diagnose, but may present with morning stiffness, or an achy, creaky sort of pain or irregular feeling in the joint. Prohibited range of motion is another red flag; perhaps your arm only raises to shoulder level whereas it used to swing straight overhead. Depending on age, activity level, diagnosis and varied indications for surgery, patients with shoulder arthritis now have numerous options for shoulder surgery. 

Shoulder resurfacing, which has gained in popularity and use--much as hip resurfacing did in recent years--is typically used in treating younger, more active patients. In this procedure, the ball side of the joint is smoothed and “capped” but the socket is left in place. Half-shoulder replacement removes the ball and replaces it with an implanted ball and stem down the arm to hold it in place. With full shoulder replacement, the entire ball and socket is removed and replaced with an implant, and Franta notes the quality of implant design has improved significantly. There are also more specialized, surgeries including Cuff Tear Arthropathy (CTA) and Reverse Shoulder, depending on individual cases. 

“People expect pain relief after surgery, but I think the thing that surprises patients is they can actually get more motion in the shoulder,” says Franta. “Then they have more function, when all they wanted was less pain.”

Recovery from surgery is quicker than it once was, too, with shoulder replacement typically resulting in only a two-day hospital stay. In addition, post-surgical patients fare better these days, due to earlier and more structured rehabilitative therapy. With these post-op therapies, patients get better range of motion, better strength, and have better outcomes. At Meriter Hospital, one of the key post-op tools is the Continuous Passive Motion Machine, a chair that passively moves the arm to prevent scar tissue formation and to decrease swelling and encourage early motion; it’s available for home use.

Whichever type of surgery is right for you, one thing is clear, say experts: the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcomes--and there’s a downside to waiting too long, too. 

“There is a certain point where the shoulder replacement becomes harder and more complex to do, if you get too much bone loss or wear of the joint,” says Franta. “Again, I think that all goes to getting in early and seeing somebody to get it established and tracked.”

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