Calcific tendinitis

When the shoulder hurts

Blow-drying your hair, hanging up your clothes or pulling your jumper over your head – anyone who has ever had persistent shoulder pain knows that the joint is indispensable for many movements. Everyday life can become torture for patients with painful calcific tendinitis.

The shoulder experts at Schoen Clinic specialise in treating calcific tendinitis. We work with you to find the right therapy and relieve you of the pain. 

Causes & symptoms

What do we understand by calcific tendinitis?

Calcific tendinitis is a very painful, often sudden disease of the tendons in the shoulder joint. However, the shoulder joint is not affected. Calcium salts (“calcium”) are deposited in the attachment area of the tendon. 

One in ten people has calcium deposits in a tendon of the shoulder. Approximately half of those affected thus suffer from symptoms during their lifetime. Calcific tendinitis usually occurs between ages of 30 and 50. Diabetes is a major risk factor. Patients who need long-term insulin therapy have an increased risk of calcification of the shoulder. 

How does calcific tendinitis develop?

During the first stage, before the calcification of the shoulder, an increasing amount of fibrous cartilage tissue is formed. Calcium salts are then deposited at these sites. The deposits begin to liquefy and gain a toothpaste-like consistency. Our immune system starts to work at this stage: the calcific deposits are absorbed by macrophages, which are the phagocytes of the immune system. This inflammation causes the volume and pressure to increase and the pain to worsen. 

Symptoms of calcific tendinitis

Patients with shoulder calcification complain about different symptoms. These vary depending on the stage of the disease, and the location and size of the calcific deposit. Those affected who are in the early phase of shoulder calcification usually have no symptoms. Due to the inflammation, the patients complain of severe pain as the disease progresses. 

If you experience sudden pain in a resting position or the pain increases with movement, this may indicate calcific tendinitis. It is typical to experience pain at night when lying on the affected shoulder. 


How we diagnose calcific tendinitis

The first step in diagnosis is to determine whether you have a tendon tear, osteoarthritis or inflammation of the joint. This is done by our specialists with the help of an ultrasound scan. The ultrasound image shows calcific deposits very clearly. In some cases, this is followed by an X-ray. Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography are not usually necessary.