Calcific tendinitis (also called calcific tendinopathy) happens when calcium builds up in the tendons. It is most common in the shoulders. But it may occur in the elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, or feet. People most affected by calcific tendinitis are between 30 and 50 years old. Women are more likely to have it than men. It isn't normally a sports-related problem.
What causes calcific tendinitis?
Calcific tendinitis starts with a buildup of calcium that causes a chemical reaction with other tissues in the tendon to cause pain. In the shoulder, the calcium is most often built up inside the rotator cuff.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms 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 calcific tendinitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and your symptoms and will do a physical examination. He or she may do an X-ray to look for calcium deposits. An ultrasound or MRI of the area may also be done.
How is it treated?
Treatment includes rest, ice, medicines to reduce pain and swelling, and gentle range-of-motion exercises. In most cases, the pain of a flare-up will go away after 1 to 2 months.
If you're in a lot of pain, your doctor may inject steroid medicine into the area.
If your doctor suggests 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").
Bannuru RR, et al. (2014). High-energy extracorporeal shock-wave therapy for treating chronic calcific tendinitis of the shoulder: A systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 160(8): 542-549. DOI: 10.7326/M13-1982. Accessed September 3, 2014.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerTimothy Bhattacharyya, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma