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Calcium Deposits and Tendinitis (Calcific Tendinitis)

Topic Overview

What is calcific tendinitis?

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 exam. 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 uses sound waves from outside your shoulder focused on the calcium deposit. The sound waves break up the deposit. 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").

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Timothy Bhattacharyya, MD
Last Revised November 30, 2011

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