Calcific tendinitis is a very common condition for shoulder pain. The pain can be sudden and dramatic, often debilitating.



People usually experience severe pain in the front or down the side of the shoulder. Patients have trouble lifting their arm up and finding a comfortable position. There is usually no history of trauma and a cause for the calcium deposit is usually never found. There are some associated conditions in the literature but the treatment remains the same. It has not been shown to be diet related and elevated blood calcium level is not associated with it. An X-ray is very helpful in making the diagnosis.


The pain can be from calcium ions released into the bursa of the shoulder creating severe chemical bursitis. This is one reason that a cortisone injection can be extremely helpful just from a pain relief point of you. The cortisone does not dissolve the calcium but takes away bursitis associated with it. Another possibility for the deposit causing pain is that it rubs up against the acromion as the shoulder is moved.

If cortisone therapy, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatories are not helpful when there are other treatment options. I have found arthroscopic debridement to be the most effective. As you can see from the pictures the calcium can be large and almost have a toothpaste-like quality.




Sometimes it even looks like gravel. If the deposit is large enough when the tendon is debrided there may be a hole left in the tendon which then has to be repaired.


So, I tell people that sometimes may need a rotator cuff repair, if it is not repaired and only debrided because it is small, it is typically a 2 to 3-month recovery. If it is repaired, recovery is usually on the order of 4 to 6 months.