Calcific Tendinitis: What Is It and How Is It Treated
Also known as "calcified tendinitis" or "calcifying tendinitis," calcific tendinitis happens when calcium deposits cause tendons to become inflamed. Most often, rotator cuff tendons are the target, and can occur in either or both shoulders.
No one really knows what causes calcific tendinitis, but there are some pretty clear indicators as to what does NOT cause it. Having too much calcium in the diet does not cause it, because those who are diagnosed with calcific tendinitis usually have normal calcium levels in their blood. Therefore, it is NOT advised that you limit calcium in your diet if you are diagnosed with this condition, because you could put yourself at risk for osteoporosis; if you get too little calcium in your diet, your body will simply take it from your bones.
In some cases, it may be that a metabolic condition may cause calcific tendinitis, or that kidney problems can cause these calcium deposits; however, this is only a guess and is not a definite and diagnosed cause. In addition, dramatic injury or overuse of the rotator cuff probably does not cause calcific tendinitis come either. Overuse CAN cause rotator cuff tendinitis, which occurs without excess calcium deposits being present.
May be related to age
Some have speculated that calcific tendinitis does have some increased propensity to occur as we age, since most people under the age of 30 do not have calcium deposits in their tendons.
Oftentimes, calcific tendinitis is asymptomatic, especially if the deposits themselves occur within the tendons deeply enough that they are not felt. In some cases, you may feel discomfort or pain if a large calcium deposit in your rotator cuff tendon causes so-called "shoulder impingement syndrome," where you get some pain when you raise your arm overhead.
In addition, calcium crystals may shed off of the deposits and cause the tendons to become acutely inflamed. Oftentimes, people aren't even aware they have calcific tendinitis until they experience this kind of attack. Surprisingly, though, this is also when the calcium deposits can be reabsorbed by the body.
Usually, those who experience calcific tendinitis have pain symptoms that happen suddenly, not over a long period of time. Usually, the pain symptoms themselves resolved within a week or two without incident.
If you see your doctor during an attack of acute calcific tendinitis, it can be seen on an x-ray, via the deposits that exist in your shoulder rotator cuff. Usually, calcific tendinitis treatment simply consists of taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers and applying ice. Doing range of motion exercises during this time can also prevent experiencing "frozen shoulder" symptoms.
If pain is particularly severe, your doctor can give you a steroid or cortisone injection into your shoulder to relieve inflammation. In some cases, the deposits can be broken apart with a hyper during meal and sucked out with a syringe. In very, very rare cases, surgery may need to be performed to remove the deposits, especially if the deposits interfere with shoulder movement. Usually, arthroscopic surgery can take care of this with minimal invasiveness. You can learn more about calcific tendonitis here.