Calcium Deposits and Tendinitis (Calcific Tendinitis)

Calcium Deposits and Tendinitis (Calcific Tendinitis)

Condition Basics

What is calcific tendinitis?

Calcific tendinitis (or calcific tendinopathy) happens when calcium builds up in the tendons. It's most common in the shoulders, often in the rotator cuff. But it may affect the elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, or feet. It most often occurs in people 30 to 50 years old, especially females.

What causes it?

Calcific tendinitis starts with calcium buildup in the tendons. What causes this isn't clear. But tissue tears and natural tissue breakdown (degenerative changes) increase the chance of these deposits occurring.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of calcific tendinitis may include pain and stiffness that often comes back but usually lasts 1 to 2 months. It is often worse at night and may make it hard to sleep.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose calcific tendinitis, your doctor will ask questions about your past health and your symptoms and will do a physical examination. The doctor may do an X-ray to look for calcium deposits. An ultrasound or MRI of the area may also be done.

How is calcific tendinitis treated?

Calcific tendinitis can usually be treated with home care. But if you're in a lot of pain, your doctor may inject steroid medicine into the area.

If your doctor suggests breaking up or removing the calcium deposit, you have a few options:

  • A specialist can numb the area and use ultrasound imaging to guide needles to the deposit. The deposit is loosened, and most of it is sucked out with the needle. Your body may absorb some of the rest of the calcium.
  • Shock wave therapy can be done. The doctor uses a device to focus sound waves on the calcium deposit. No anesthesia or incisions are needed. The sound waves travel through your skin to the calcium deposit and break it up. Your body may then absorb some of the calcium.
  • The calcium deposits can be removed with an arthroscopic surgery called debridement (say "dih-BREED-munt").


Current as of: November 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Timothy Bhattacharyya MD - Orthopaedic Surgery, Orthopaedic Trauma