Calcific tendinitis is a condition that causes the formation of a small calcium deposits within the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder. The tissues surrounding the deposits may cause inflammation and pain. The build-up of calcium may also lead to shoulder impingement (pinching of the tendons). Calcific tendinitis is most common in individuals between 30 and 60 years of age.
There are two types of calcific shoulder tendonitis: degenerative and reactive:
- Degenerative. As we age, blood flow to the rotator cuff tendons decreases, weakening them. With normal wear and tear, the tendons may fray, somewhat like a well-worn rope. As the shoulder heals, calcium deposits tend to form in the damaged tendons.
- Reactive. This type of calcific tendonitis is more likely to cause pain that the degenerative type. It usually progresses in three stages:
- In the pre-calcific stage, the tendons experience cellular changes that make the tissues more likely to develop calcium deposits. There are usually no symptoms at this stage.
- In the calcific stage, calcium is excreted from the cells and deposited in the tendon. After a “resting” phase, the deposits begin to be reabsorbed by the body and gradually disappear. This stage is usually accompanied by constant, nagging pain that may cause loss of shoulder motion and interfere with sleep.
- In the post-calcific stage, the calcium deposits have disappeared and been replaced by a rotator cuff tendon that appears more normal. This is usually a painless stage of calcific tendonitis.
A shoulder specialist at Lancaster Orthopedic Group will thoroughly examine the shoulder and take an X-ray or ultrasound to confirm the presence and location of any calcium deposits.
Calcific tendinitis usually resolves without surgery, and treatment typically includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone steroid injections, and physiotherapy to relieve the pain and inflammation. If pain and loss of movement continue to interfere with your regular activities, your physician may recommend surgery.