Shoulder Tendonitis

Make an Appointment

If the tendons in your shoulder's rotator cuff form hard calcium deposits, you might experience a lot of pain. Even though this condition develops overtime, it can feel sudden and scary. The symptoms don't appear until after the calcium deposits have formed. And once the calcium starts to be reabsorbed, the pain can become worse. 
The good news is that there are treatment options available. If you're experiencing shoulder pain, you should contact your doctor.  

Causes of Calcific Tendonitis of the Shoulder

The exact cause is unknown. The condition occurs most commonly from wear and tear of the shoulder. Aging also plays a part in its development. 

Shoulder Calcific Tendonitis: Risks

You're more likely to develop calcific tendonitis if you're:

  • Over age 40
  • Female

Symptoms of Shoulder Calcific Tendonitis

The symptoms of calcific tendonitis also show up with many shoulder conditions. If you're experiencing any of these, the best next step is seeing a doctor: 

  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Intense pain with shoulder movement
  • Stiffness of shoulder
  • Loss of shoulder range of motion
  • Pain that disrupts sleep
  • Tenderness over rotator cuff
  • Loss of muscle mass

Diagnosing Shoulder Calcific Tendonitis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. For example, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in bones and joints.

Tests may include the following:

  • Thorough physical evaluation — assessing your shoulder range of motion and stability
  • X-ray — test that uses radiation waves to form a picture of the body’s structures; used to view calcium deposit(s)

Treating Calcific Tendonitis of the Shoulder

Most cases of calcific tendonitis resolve over time. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:

Medical Treatment

Your medical treatment plan will likely include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Rest
  • Heat and/or ice
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles
  • A steroid (such as cortisone) shot directly into your shoulder—might be used to decrease inflammation and pain

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may send you to a therapist for treatment. A therapist will use different treatments to decrease the pain and inflammation. Possible treatments include:

  • Ice
  • Heat
  • Ultrasound — a device that uses high energy sound waves to decrease pain in soft tissue
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) — used to decrease muscle stiffness or spasms

Once the symptoms have started to decrease, you will work with the therapist to strengthen your muscles and increase your range of motion.

Lavage Treatment

Lavage may help flush out the calcium deposits. A needle is placed directly into the shoulder. Normal saline is injected through the needle. The deposits are then broken up for removal.

Shock Wave Therapy

This therapy breaks up deposits by sending sound waves to the shoulder. The body can then reabsorb the smaller pieces. This should decrease symptoms.


In some cases, surgery may be done to remove deposits. The procedure is called arthroscopy. It uses small incisions and instruments to view the joint and remove the deposits.