By Frank Alberta

How did I get “calcific tendonitis”?

Did you just wake up with shoulder pain one day? Never did anything to hurt it, right?  Well, one of the most common causes of shoulder pain is also one of the most frustrating.  Calcific tendonitis (aka calcifying/calcareous tendonitis or bursitis) is the result of a breakdown in the rotator cuff tendon (that’s the tendonitis part) and a replacement of the tendon tissue with calcium deposits.  It goes through a couple of phases, but the resorptive phase is when the pain really kicks in because the body is trying to get rid of the calcium and the pressure builds up inside the rotator cuff. The calcium is not a rock or like bone.  It is chalky at first, and then its more like toothpaste.

Calcific tendonitis symptoms can be triggered by anything that would cause the tendon to become inflamed but patients usually can’t recall doing anything to hurt the shoulder.  Typical symptoms are pain with any shoulder range of motion, decreased strength and discomfort when sleeping at night. It tends to be more common in women (sorry ladies) between the ages of 30 and 60.

It is almost never requires surgery and usually, the calcium deposit will resolve in its own.  It can take several years for the calcium to resorb completely on xray, but symptoms typically last only a few weeks.  Treatment consists of anti-inflammatory medication and RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).  Most of the time a cortisone injection helps significantly as well and is done in the office with ultrasound guidance.  Physical therapy is typically prescribed to help resolve the cause of the tendonitis.  If your shoulder pain persists despite these treatment options, surgery may need to be considered.  

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, or if you have had calcific tendonitis for a while, we would love to help you out and get you feeling better to enjoy the summer!

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