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Rotator cuff calcific tendonitis, or calcific tendinopathy, is a condition which is caused when calcium builds up in your rotator cuff, putting pressure on the tendon. This leads to chemical irritation as well as restricted movement. In severe cases you can suffer from subacromial impingement, because the calcium deposit hampers the range of motion of the tendon and causes you problems when you try to lift your arm overhead.
One of the main symptoms is so much shoulder pain that you struggle to move the shoulder through your full range of motion, and it is generally painful in day-to-day life. You can manage this pain, at least during exercise, by wearing a shoulder support, but this will not help to stop the chemical irritation.
Calcific tendinopathy is most common in people with diabetes and people who are between the ages of 30 and 60. The condition includes several stages. During the precalcification stage, many people do not notice any adverse symptoms. The calcific stage is the most painful, and during this period the calcium deposits are easy to see on an x-ray, so it is fairly easy to diagnose the condition. Over time the calcium deposits should spontaneously break down. As the deposits break down, the condition is considered to be entering the postcalcific stage, and pain should begin to subside.
Physiotherapy is rarely used to treat calcific tendonitis specifically, but it can help to reduce some of the stiffness associated with the condition. Rather, people are advised to rest, ice their tendon, use medication and perform gentle mobility exercises. In the rarest of cases surgical intervention may be recommended, but in most cases the condition is self-limiting and the shoulder pain should resolve itself within a month or two.
Surgery may be required if other treatments do not show results, or if the pain associated with the condition becomes so severe that it interferes with day-to-day activities such as dressing and combing your hair. In those cases a surgeon may choose to excise the calcium deposit through a small incision into the shoulder or by using shoulder arthroscopy. There is some risk of infection with any form of invasive surgery, and physiotherapy will be required to restore mobility and strength to the affected shoulder.
One option that is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for chronic calcific tendonitis is shockwave therapy. This helps to break down the deposits through a series of microtraumas and stimulates blood flow to the affected joint so that the calcium deposits can be properly broken down.
A good shoulder support will reduce the amount of shoulder pain that you feel, but it will not treat the cause of the shoulder pain itself. If you find that your condition does not improve after a few weeks, talk to your doctor.