Calcific Tendinitis: What Is It and How Is It Best Treated?

By Tom Nicholson

Tendinitis is one of the side effects of growing old. A variation of Tendinitis is calcifying Tendinitis, where the body secretes calcium deposits near tendons, triggering inflammation. The usual place where this condition is triggered is rotator cuff tendons, but they can happen in long tendons as well. The most common location for this condition is the shoulder joint.

The actual cause of calcific Tendinitis is still unknown. Several things have been ruled out as causes. Excess calcium in the diet has been ruled out; people who develop it do not have elevated calcium levels in their blood. If you are diagnosed with this condition, do not limit your calcium; that can put you at a risk for osteoporosis as your body cannibalizes the bones to make up the lack.

There are some links between certain metabolic conditions, such as kidney disease, and calcific tendinitis, though whether the joint pain causes the kidney condition or vice versa is still being analyzed. While overuse of the shoulder joint can generate tendinitis, there is a difference between shoulder joint and rotator cuff wear and calcific tendinitis.

May be related to age

One statistical correlation is that calcific tendinitis rarely occurs in those under the age of 30; there are hopes that the metabolic trigger that causes the body to excrete calcium nodules can be identified; it may be possible to use these techniques to treat bone spurs as well.


The usual set of symptoms for calcific Tendinitis is a sharp, burning pain when a stiff shoulder is moved; it's often described as feeling like gravel is under the shoulder blade, usually when you raise your arm of the shoulder. Sometimes it's a little subtler than that if the calcium crystallization happens deeper in the tissue, where it can't be felt through the skin.

One hazard of calcific Tendinitis is calcium crystals shedding off the deposit and cause inflammation elsewhere. This may be the first indication that a problem exists as those crystals migrate and cause pain elsewhere. These calcium deposits may be re-absorbed by the body at this time.

Sudden onset

The usual time frame for onset is sudden; you move your shoulder and it hurts as if small bits of broken glass are nestled under your shoulderblade. Most times, the pain subsides after a week as the calcium gets reabsorbed.

Sometimes, your doctor will put you in for an X-ray to find out what's wrong, and the calcium deposit will show up just fine. Most of the recommended treatments are to take over the counter pain medications and doing range of motion therapy exercises to keep your joint limber, followed by icing it down to reduce swelling and inflammation.

In the event of particularly severe pain, your doctor may give you a steroid or cortisone injection to relieve inflammation. For extreme cases, the deposits may be broken down with ultrasound or a hypodermic needle and extracted with a syringe. It's rare, but on some occasions, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary. - 30540

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