Calcific tendinitis of the shoulder

Calcific tendinitis of the shoulder occurs when deposits of calcium build up in one of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles, specifically supraspinatus. This deposit can lead to irritation and inflammation of the tendon which causes pain and alters the function of the rotator cuff. The pain from calcific tendinitis can be extremely unpleasant. In some circumstances the calcium build-up and subsequent inflammation is sufficient to cause a “subacromial impingement” between the deposit and one of the bones (the acromion) when the arm is moved in certain directions. There is no known cause for this calcification process, it occurs most commonly between 30 and 60 years of age and can, eventually resolve of its own accord; although this can take some years.

How is Calcific tendinitis diagnosed?

Calcific tendinitis is usually diagnosed via x-ray or ultrasound; ultrasound is a more useful diagnostic tool as it is more likely to show smaller deposits and gives a clearer indication of the size of larger deposits. Your GP can refer you for x-ray whereas osteopaths and physiotherapists can refer for ultrasound scans.

Treatment Options

There are a number of possible treatment options for calcific tendinitis of the shoulder. These include painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication; physiotherapy or osteopathy to keep the shoulder strong and mobile; steroid injections to reduce the inflammation, Barbotage to break down and “wash out” the calcium deposit, surgical excision and Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT). Research has shown ESWT to be a “safe and effective non-invasive treatment for people with calcific tendinitis of the shoulder”.1

Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave Therapy involves delivering acoustic shockwaves to the injured tissues to provide rapid pain relief and stimulate a healing reaction. Most patients require between 3 and 6 treatments over a 12 week period alongside a bespoke exercise programme to experience a significant improvement in their symptoms although pain relief can occur almost immediately after the first session.







1Shock Wave Therapy for Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder: A Prospective Clinical Study with Two-Year Follow-up
Ching-Jen Wang, MD, Kuender D. Yang, MD, PhD, Feng-Sheng Wang, PhD, Han-Hsiang Chen, MD, Jun-Wen Wang, MD The American Journal of Sports Medicine Vol 31,
Issue 3, pp. 425 – 430 First Published March 1, 2003