What is Calcification Tendinitis?
Calcification tendinitis is a problem with the shoulder’s tendons and muscles. This condition occurs due to the formation of calcium deposits in the tendons (tissue which attaches muscle to bone) of the rotator cuff (a group of muscles and tendons stabilizing the shoulder). This calcium build-up causes inflammation of the tissues surrounding it, and intense shoulder pain. The space between the rotator cuff and the acromion (outer bony end of the shoulder blade) is also reduced due to the calcium deposits, affecting the normal functioning of the rotator cuff.
The deposits often occur in people above 30-40 years old and are more common in diabetic patients.
Symptoms of Calcification Tendinitis
During the process of calcium deposition, you may either experience no pain at all or mild to moderate pain. You may experience pain while lifting your arm or loss of motion in the shoulder due to stiffness. Severe pain may also interfere with your sleep.
These symptoms are characteristic to three stages through which calcification tendinitis progresses.
- Pre-calcification stage: This is the beginning of calcium formation where changes happen in the cells and you may not experience any symptoms.
- Calcific stage: The cells release calcium, which combines to form calcium deposits. This stage generally lasts for a varied period of time without any pain and is called the resting phase. The most painful phase called the resorptive phase begins after the resting phase. Most patients seek treatment during this phase due to the severe pain associated with this stage.
- Post-calcific stage: The calcium deposition starts being replaced with a normal rotator cuff tendon. This stage is usually painless.
Causes of Calcification Tendinitis
The exact cause of calcification tendinitis is unknown. It is believed that aging, increased pressure on the tendons and/or severe wear-and-tear may be responsible for calcification. Inadequate oxygen in the tendons may also cause calcium deposition.
Diagnosis of Calcification Tendinitis
Calcification tendonitis is diagnosed by a thorough physical examination of the shoulder and a detailed medical history carried out by your doctor. X-rays can be ordered to detect calcific deposits. The deposits not seen on X-rays can be viewed with an ultrasound scan which allows assessing the size of the deposits from all directions.
Treatment of Calcification Tendinitis
Calcification tendinitis generally resolves on its own without the need for surgery. Certain conservative treatment measures may be recommended by your physician.
The non-surgical approach is the first line of therapy for calcification tendonitis.
- Anti-Inflammatory medications: The pain associated with calcific deposits can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
- Steroid injections: If you experience severe pain, steroid injections may be administered to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Lavage procedure: Your doctor will use Ultrasound Guidance to guide a needle into the calcification. Once in position, a saline solution will be used to flush the calcification and aspirate or suck out calcium through the syringe.
- Heat/ice application: A washcloth dipped in warm or an ice water can be placed on the affected shoulder to relieve pain.
- Shock wave therapy: This therapy is administered once a week for up to 3 weeks. Your therapist will generate pulses of shock waves on the affected area to break the calcium deposits so that they can be easily absorbed by the body.
Surgery is suggested only if your daily life is affected with persisting pain and loss of movement and conservative methods are unsuccessful. The surgeries are outpatient procedures performed under general anesthesia.