Calcific Tendonitis of the Shoulder
Calcific tendonitis of the shoulder is the formation of small calcium deposits (usually about 1 to 2 centimeters in size) within the tendons of the rotator cuff. It can cause the surrounding tissues to become inflamed, resulting in significant pain. These calcium deposits are more common in patients over the age of 30-40, and they are more likely to occur in people with diabetes. Treatment can help patients with calcific tendonitis of the shoulder feel relief from the pain and improve any related mobility issues.
Symptoms of calcific tendonitis can include any of the following:
- Sudden pain, especially with movement
- Severe pain that disrupts sleep
- Sudden stiffness
- Reduced range of motion
- Rotator cuff tenderness
These symptoms can also occur with other shoulder conditions (such as frozen shoulder or rotator cuff tear), so it is important to get evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon to receive an accurate diagnosis.
Calcific tendonitis of the shoulder can often resolve with nonsurgical treatments. Treatment options include:
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can decrease inflammation and pain due to calcific tendonitis of the shoulder.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Rest can significantly reduce symptoms associated with calcific tendonitis of the shoulder. Some patients will benefit from lifestyle modifications, such as limiting or stopping certain activities that cause or aggravate pain. Changing how you move your arm can help you avoid provoking pain.
- Injections: If pain continues to be severe after trying other nonsurgical treatments, cortisone injections may be recommended. These can be very helpful in eliminating pain and swelling from calcific tendonitis of the shoulder.
- Physical Therapy (PT): PT will often be recommended to address calcific tendonitis of the shoulder. Exercises, heat, and ice may all be employed as part of PT. The focus will usually be on improving range of motion, strengthening the shoulder, and keeping the shoulder joint fully mobile to preserve function and prevent further damage.
- Surgery: If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve pain, or if your pain is debilitating, surgery may be advised to manually remove or clear out the calcium deposits. Only a small number of patients with calcific tendonitis will need surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
The exact cause of calcific tendonitis is unknown, and it can be difficult to predict. There is a recognized connection to age, since most patients with this condition are age 40 or older. Wear and tear can also be predictors.
Calcific tendonitis of the shoulder can cause symptoms such as sudden pain and decreased mobility, either of which is grounds for scheduling an appointment for evaluation. Your orthopedic surgeon will ask about your symptoms and medical history, perform a physical exam, and take X-rays to determine whether there are signs of calcium deposits. X-rays can also help to pinpoint precisely where any calcium deposits might be. Patients may need several X-rays over a period of time to monitor any changes and progression, especially to determine whether the condition is improving or worsening.
If you have calcific tendonitis of the shoulder, nonsurgical treatments are recommended, as these usually have minimal to no side effects and are often able to eliminate symptoms. If you have tried nonsurgical treatments without success, and surgery has been recommended, carefully weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Every surgery comes with a risk of complications; however, if calcific tendonitis is significantly affecting your quality of life, surgery could eliminate your symptoms and save you from long-term limitations and effects on shoulder mobility and health (such as persistent weakness, decreased range of motion, and chronic pain). In all cases, it is strongly recommended that you have your shoulder be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon to be sure there are no other conditions contributing to or causing your shoulder pain.