Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder

Calcific Tendinitis

Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder (Degenerative Calcification)

Calcific tendinitis of the shoulder occurs when calcium deposits form in the tendons of the rotator cuff. The tendons and the surrounding tissues will then become inflamed, causing pain. This condition most commonly affects individuals over the age of forty..


The rotator cuff is made up of several tendons that connect the muscles around your shoulder to the larger bone of the upper arm called the humerus. The calcium deposits causing calcific tendinitis usually form on the supraspinatus tendon in the rotator cuff. There are two different types of calcific tendinitis, and here we will focus on degenerative calcification. 

Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder Causes

The exact cause of degenerative calcification is unknown. However, physicians believe the wear and tear of aging is the main cause. As people age, normal use of the shoulder can end up weakening and damaging the tendons of the rotator cuff. Plus, blood flow to the rotator cuff’s tendons decreases as we get older. This also makes the tendons weaker. As they get weaker, the fibers making up the tendons start to fray and tear. When the fibers of these tendons try to heal, calcium crystals may be deposited in the tissue. Then, the crystals collect, forming painful deposits.

Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder

Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder Symptoms

The most common symptom of this condition is moderate to severe pain in the shoulder, often described as a burning sensation. The pain is typically mild to moderate as the calcium is being deposited. It is when the calcium deposits are being reabsorbed that it becomes very painful, often a constant and nagging type of pain. 

The shoulder pain often gets worse due to physical activity, especially when it requires lifting of the arm. People may also notice the shoulder feeling stiff and limited range of motion. When the condition progresses to its most severe stage, the pain might begin affecting your sleep.

Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder Treatment

Nonsurgical Treatments

Nonsurgical treatments will be tried first, with the goal of controlling pain and inflammation. The first approach will likely be rest and anti-inflammatory medications. If the pain continues to worsen, a cortisone injection might be recommended. 

Another option is a procedure called lavage. This procedure is the removal of the calcium deposit by inserting two needles and rinsing with sterile saline. Sometimes this procedure will break the calcium particles loose, allowing them to be removed with the needles. Removing these deposits can speed up the healing process. And even if the procedure fails to remove the deposits, it can reduce the pressure in the tendon, relieving pain. 

Physical therapy is another nonsurgical option that can be used to treat calcific tendinitis of the shoulder. Treatment may begin with alternating heat or cold compresses. Then, hands-on treatments and exercises will be used. The exercises will be designed to improve the shoulder’s range of motion and strengthen the muscles of the shoulder. After a course of treatment of six to eight weeks, most patients will get back to their normal activities.

Surgical Treatment

If the pain and decreasing movement does not improve or continues to get worse, patients might need surgery. Most of the surgical approaches used to treat this condition are arthroscopic, meaning they only require a couple of small incisions. Physical therapy will also be recommended after surgery to ensure proper healing and regaining of full functioning. 

Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder at OAR

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of calcific tendinitis of the shoulder, reach out to the doctors today. We will get you the treatment needed to return to a pain-free life.