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What is Calcific Tendonitis?

Calcific Tendonitis, as the name suggests, is the deposition of calcium in the rotator cuff of shoulders. Rotator Cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. When there is build up of calcium, it puts pressure on the rotator cuff which causes inflammation and pain. In fact, it is one of the worst pains in the shoulder. This calcium deposit also reduces the space between rotator cuff and the acromion (acromion is a bony process on the shoulder blade, scapula). This affects the normal functioning of rotator cuff thus creating a subacromial impingement between the acromion and the calcium deposit in the rotator cuff, while lifting the arm overhead. This condition is quite common and generally affects people over the age of 40.

Calcific Shoulder Tendonitis

Types of Calcific Tendonitis

There are two types of Calcific Tendonitis of the Shoulder – Degenerative Calcification and Reactive Calcification.

What causes Calcific Tendonitis?

The exact cause of Calcific Tendonitis is not known. The wear and tear of shoulder due to aging is considered to be the primary cause of Degenerative Calcification. Some experts consider damage exerted by pressure on tendons to be the cause of calcium deposits. Others feel that calcium deposit forms because there is not enough oxygen to the tendons of rotator cuff. The cause of Reactive Calcification is unclear. It is not related to aging. It is the type which causes great deal of pain in the shoulder.

Symptoms of Calcific Tendonitis

Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the shoulder. Lifting your arm can become quite painful. At advanced stages, it can cause loss of motion in your shoulder.

Diagnosis of Calcific Tendonitis

X-rays are the best way to detect calcium deposits. In some cases, ultrasound scan may be needed as small calcium deposits might get missed on x-rays.

Treatment of Calcific Tendonitis

Treatment is normally started with non-surgical methods as follows:

    1. Rest and anti-inflammatory medicines
    2. Steroids in case of severe pain
    3. Insertion of needles and rinsing with sterile saline(called Lavage)
    4. Physiotherapy
    5. Shock Wave Therapy

When the non-surgical methods do not help in controlling the inflammation and severe pain, doctor may advise a surgery. Most of the surgeries performed for treating Calcific Tendonitis are arthroscopic surgeries. In rare cases, open surgery is required. In both cases, calcium deposits are removed from the tendons and the area is rinsed to get rid of calcium crystals.

Rehabilitation for Calcific Tendonitis

Your case may need a surgery or not, you will have to undergo a rehabilitation program. Your doctor may recommend you work with a physical/occupational therapist. Your therapist will suggest some exercises which will help ease the pressure on the calcium deposits. He might also suggest changes in your posture which can help avoid further problems.

In case you have undergone a surgery, your surgeon might advise you to wear a sling for couple of weeks (depending on the severity of the condition).  Patient has to undergo physiotherapy post surgery as well.

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