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Tendons of the Shoulder  
Rotator cuff labeled

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Definition  

Calcific tendonitis occurs when calcium deposits form in the tendons in the shoulder.

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Causes  

Calcific tendonitis may be caused by:

  • Overuse, repetitive motions
  • Injury
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Risk Factors  

Your risk of calcific tendonitis of the shoulder may be increased if you:

  • Participate in sports that require repetitive arm use such as baseball, swimming, javelin throwing, and volleyball
  • Have a job that requires repetitive arm use such as painting, carpentry, and welding
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Symptoms  

Symptoms may include:

  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Intense pain with shoulder movement
  • Stiffness of shoulder
  • Loss of shoulder range of motion
  • Pain that disrupts sleep
  • Tenderness over rotator cuff
  • Loss of muscle mass
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Diagnosis  

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will assess your range of motion and stability.

Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with an x-ray.

You may be referred to a specialist. For example, an orthopedic surgeon specializes in bones.

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Treatment  

Most cases of calcific tendonitis resolve over time. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:

Medical Treatment  

Your medical treatment plan will likely include:

  • Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Rest
  • Heat and/or ice
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles
  • A steroid shot directly into your shoulder to decrease inflammation and pain

Physical Therapy  

You may be referred to a therapist for treatment. A therapist will use different treatments to decrease the pain and inflammation. Possible treatments include:

  • Ultrasound—a device that uses high energy sound waves to decrease pain in soft tissue
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)—used to decrease muscle stiffness or spasms

When the symptoms have started to decrease, you will work with the therapist to strengthen your muscles and increase your range of motion.

Lavage Treatment  

Lavage may help flush out the calcium deposits. A needle is placed directly into the shoulder. Normal saline is injected through the needles. The deposits are then broken up for removal.

Shock Wave Therapy  

This therapy breaks up deposits by sending sound waves to the shoulder. The body can then reabsorb the smaller pieces. This should decrease symptoms.

Surgery  

In some cases, surgery may be done to remove deposits. The procedure is called arthroscopy . It uses small incisions and instruments to view the joint and remove the deposits.

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Prevention  

To prevent this condition, avoid or limit repetitive movements of the upper arm.