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What is Calcific Tendinitis?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 17, 2024
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Calcific tendinitis is a condition in which calcium deposits build up around the tendons of the shoulder. This can become an extremely painful condition and a common occurrence. There are several kinds of treatment available to lessen pain and correct the situation, and the problem may or may not require surgery. Often, calcific tendinitis mends itself with the absorption of the calcium back into the body.

The condition often occurs without warning, and with no discernible reason. Individuals over 40 are most susceptible to calcific tendinitis, which impacts only the tendons attached to the rotator cuff of the shoulder. By the time the painful symptoms occur, calcium deposits have already built up in the area. The pain is from the tendon, which becomes inflamed from the irritation of the calcium.

The rotator cuff of the shoulder helps keep the other bones in the shoulder in place. These bones are held to each other and to the rotator cuff by tendons. In a shoulder that has developed calcific tendinitis, the pain occurs while moving the arm and using the tendons that connect the parts of the shoulder; pain can be most severe with lifting the arm straight up.

There are three different stages to the condition. The precalcification stage occurs when there is a change in the tissues of the tendon. This change makes it easier for the calcium to build up in the areas of the rotator cuff; this buildup occurs in the second stage, called the calcific stage, when calcium deposits begin to form around the tendons. There may or may not be pain at first, but when the calcium deposits begin to be reabsorbed back into the body, there is generally extreme pain.

While the body is going through this process, anti-inflammatory medications can help keep the pain under control, but in extreme cases, a cortisone injection can also be given. Some individuals might find going to a physical therapist helpful, in order to lessen the pain and increase the mobility in the shoulder. This can also help break up the deposits. Although it is rare, some individuals have buildups so large that surgery is required in order to remove them, and the older the patient, the more likely he or she is to require surgery to remove the deposits. When calcific tendinitis occurs in younger individuals, it usually fixes itself.

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