What You Need To Know About Calcific Tendonitis

Shoulder_SurgeonCalcific tendonitis is one of the more difficult disorders for a shoulder surgeon to deal with, but it occurs frequently enough that athletes should be aware of its existence. It’s not untreatable, but it is a somewhat mysterious disorder.

What We Know About Calcific Tendonitis

Calcific tendonitis can occur in nearly any tendon of the body, but for whatever reason, it tends to almost always occur in the shoulder. Calcium deposits build up on tendons controlling the shoulder’s rotator cuff, causing extreme burning pain as well as potentially immobilizing the entire shoulder.

It’s generally described by a shoulder surgeon as one of the most painful things that can happen to a person’s arm.

We say “for whatever reason” above because, as things stand, modern medical science has not discovered why calcific tendonitis happens. We’d love to give you a list of foods or activities to avoid, but there isn’t one.

The good news is that if you’re suffering from calcific tendonitis, there are a number of treatment options.

Treating Calcific Tendonitis

The buildups can show up on both X-Ray and under Ultrasound, so they’re easy for a doctor to identify. From there, a shoulder surgeon may recommend a number of different options:

  • Reduced calcium diets, while controversial, have had quite a bit of success in naturally removing the buildup over 2-3 months.
  • Shockwave therapy.  It sounds scary, but it’s actually painless. This simply bombards the deposits with high-frequency sound waves which break them up.
  • Puncture and lavage. Basically, a doctor pokes the buildup with a needle several times to break it up, then injects fluid to flush out the cuff.
  • Cimetidine, also known a Tagamet. This is a new area of investigation. A couple studies have found that this common anti-heartburn medication may also break down calcified buildups.
  • Surgery. The surgery is difficult and requires considerably recovery, but if other therapies fail, surgery can almost always remove the buildup and restore normal rotary cuff function.

If you suspect you have calcific tendonitis, you should speak to a medical professional to discuss your treatment options.  Please do not attempt self-medication.

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