Thumbnail image of: Calcific Tendonitis: Illustration

Calcific Tendonitis

What is calcific tendonitis?

Calcific tendonitis is a problem that can happen when too much calcium builds up in your tendons. Calcium is a mineral that you get from food. You need calcium for strong bones and teeth. A tendon is a strong band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. The tendon may get hard and stiff because of the calcium deposits.

Calcific tendonitis happens most often in the tendons of your shoulder joint, but any joint may have this problem.

What is the cause?

Doctors don’t know what causes the calcium deposits. It happens in women more often than men and usually after age 50. You may be at higher risk for calcific tendonitis if you have diabetes or thyroid disease.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms may include pain and tenderness in the area that has the calcium deposits.

When calcific tendonitis affects your shoulder, you may have trouble moving your shoulder or raising your arm above your shoulder.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans.

How is it treated?

If the problem is in your arm or shoulder, you may need a sling for several weeks to keep it from moving while it heals. If the problem is in your hip, knee, or ankle, you may need to use crutches or splints.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal. Your provider may give you a shot of a steroid medicine to reduce swelling and irritation.

The calcium buildup may still be there even if symptoms go away. Other treatments that your provider may suggest include:

  • Needling, which is a procedure done to remove the calcium. You will be given medicine to help you relax during the procedure. Your provider will then put a large needle into your joint to break up and suck out the calcium.
  • Shock wave therapy, which is a treatment that uses an electric probe placed on the outside of your skin to break up the calcium deposits.
  • If this condition prevents you from fully moving the joint that is affected, you may need surgery to remove the calcium deposits.

Calcific tendonitis usually gets better with a few weeks of rest and self-care, but in some cases it may take longer. It’s important to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions.

How can I take care of myself?

To keep the ability to move your joint:

  • Move the joint often and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for exercises.
  • Get physical therapy.
  • Avoid activities that make the problem worse.

To help relieve pain:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.

Moist heat may help relax your muscles and make it easier to move your joint. Put moist heat on the joint for 10 to 15 minutes at a time before you do warm-up and stretching exercises. Moist heat includes heat patches or moist heating pads that you can purchase at most drugstores, a wet washcloth or towel that has been heated in the dryer, or a hot shower. Don’t use heat if you have swelling.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid, including how much you can lift, and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent calcific tendonitis?

Since the cause is not known, doctors don’t know how to prevent calcific tendonitis.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2014-10-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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