Calcific tendonitis

What is Calcific Tendonitis?

Calcific tendonitis is caused by calcium build up in your rotator cuff tendons (that attach muscles to the bone). These calcium deposits can build up in one area or occur in more than one location. If the deposits grow bigger or become irritated, they can cause severe pain.


Calcific tendonitis is not very common and occurs in less than 10% of people being treated for shoulder pain. We do not fully understand why this condition occurs.

People between the ages of 40 and 60 have a higher risk of calcific tendonitis.

What are the symptoms?

What tests will be done to diagnose calcific tendonitis?

After an assessment from your healthcare professional, imaging tests may be ordered. These may include x-rays or ultrasound scans of the shoulder.

Pain Relief

Over the counter painkillers like paracetamol will ease the pain, but need to be taken regularly in order to control the pain. A short course of anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can help with swelling, and therefore help you move more freely. Follow the instructions on the packet and discuss using them safely with a pharmacist or GP, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


Education and exercises which keep your shoulder strong and flexible and reduce the irritation.

General exercises can be helpful if you have pain affecting your shoulders. To view exercises, please visit Versus Arthritis: Exercises for the shoulders | Versus Arthritis

Cortico-steroid injections

Steroid injections into the joint (with or without local anaesthetic) may be offered. It can be difficult to predict how much this might help and any relief this gives is generally short term.

A physiotherapist will advise you on when to re-start exercises after you receive the steroid injection. A second injection may be required in a small number of cases.

Injections may not be suitable for every person.

Ultrasound guided barbotage

Ultrasound guided barbotage is a procedure delivered under ultrasound guidance where the calcific deposit is injected with a salt water solution and the calcium is also sucked out into a syringe. The area is then repeatedly washed.


Surgery is only required if the pain is not controlled with the treatment above and/or the pain is extremely severe.

The goal of any surgery to reduce the effects of possible ‘impingement’ of the deposit. By increasing the amount of space between the acromion and the rotator cuff tendons, surgery may allow for easier movement and less pain and inflammation. The calcium deposit is also debrided and released at the same time. The operation performed is called an Arthroscopic (keyhole) sub-acromial decompression and excision of the calcific deposit.

Your healthcare practitioner will be able to talk through options as appropriate.

Is your pain coming from somewhere else?

Shoulder pain can be as result of pain elsewhere in the body, often from the neck. Medically this is known as ‘referred pain’. Your physiotherapist or healthcare professional can assess your symptoms, diagnose the most likely cause and advise on how to manage this.

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