Calcific Tendonitis Information

Calcific tendonitis refers to a build up of calcium on the tendons of the rotator cuff. These calcium deposits are usually small, around one to two centermeters. The build up of calcium on the rotator cuff tendons sparks a chemical reaction which causes irritation and leads to pain. Calcific tendonitis pain is often much worse than regular tendonitis pain, especially when the arm is raised above the head. In most cases of calcific tendonitis the pain will resolve in two to four weeks, however some cases require treatment.

Diagram of Calcific Tendonitis

The diagram below shows a calcium deposit on the rotator cuff. Calcium deposits only appear on the rotator cuff tendon, not in any other areas of the body.

Foot Tendonitis Diagram

Thanks to primal pictures for the use of this image.

What Causes Calcific Tendonitis?

Why calcium deposits appear on the rotator cuff tendon is not well understood. Doctors and scientists can not agree on why the condition develops and why it only affects the rotator cuff tendon. Most ideas suggest that calcific tendonitis is causes by lack of good blood flow to the tendon or age, however there is no evidence to support these claims.

Progression of the Condition

Calcific tendonitis has three distinct stage of progression. In most cases the calcuim deposits will appear and resolve naturally without the need for surgery.

  1. Precalcification Stage
    This is the first stage an the person will not feel any symptoms. At this point in time, the site where the calcifications tend to develop undergo cellular changes that predispose the tissues to developing calcium deposits.
  2. Calcific Stage
    During this stage, the calcium is excreted from cells and forms calcium deposits. When seen, the calcium looks chalky, it is not a solid piece of bone. Once the calcification has formed, a so-called resting phase begins, this is not a painful period and may last a varied length of time. After the resting phase, a resorptive phase begins. This is the most painful phase of calcific tendonitis.
  3. Postcalcific Stage
    This is the stage where the calcium deposit starts to disappear and is replaced by more normal appearing rotator cuff tendon.

Treating Calcific Tendonitis

Unlike other forms of tendonitis, calcific tendonitis must be treated by a professional. In most cases it's just a matter of dealing with the pain and waiting for the condition to resolve, however some cases require further attention. Here are some of the treatments that may be administered by a doctor:

  1. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications.
  2. Physiotherapy. This helps to keep the shoulder strong and reduces pain and irritation.
  3. Ultrasound guided Lavage - under ultrasound guidance the calcium deposit is injected with a salt water solution and the calcium is also sucked out into a syringe.
  4. Cortisone is sometimes given to control the pain.

If any of the above treatments fail to remove the calcium deposit and relieve pain the doctor may recommend you have surgery on the rotator cuff. During the surgery two events will take place. First, the calcium deposit is removed from the rotator cuff tendon. Second, the doctor will increase the amount of space between the rotator cuff tendons allowing more movement and less inflammation.

Tennis Elbow Treatment
Learn how to treat tennis elbow.
Tendonitis Website
All about tendonitis.
Achilles Tendonitis
The most common form of tendonitis.