Calcific tendonitis is a condition that causes the formation of a small, usually about 1-2 centimeter size, calcium deposit within the tendons of the rotator cuff. These deposits are usually found in patients at least 30-40 years old, and have a higher incidence in diabetics. The calcium deposits are not always painful, and even when painful they will often spontaneously resolve after a period of 1-4 weeks.
What is the causes of calcific tendonitis?
The cause of calcium deposits within the rotator cuff tendon is not entirely understood. Different ideas have been suggested, including blood supply and aging of the tendon, but the evidence to support these conclusions is not clear.
How does calcific tendonitis progress?
Calcific tendonitis usually progresses predictably, and almost always resolves eventually without surgery. The typical course is:
- Precalcification Stage
Patients usually do not have any symptoms in this stage. At this point in time, the site where the calcifications tend to develop undergo cellular changes that predispose the tissues to developing calcium deposits.
- Calcific Stage
During this stage, the calcium is excreted from cells and then coalesces into calcium deposits. When seen, the calcium looks chalky, it is not a solid piece of bone. Once the calcification has formed, a so-called resting phase begins, this is not a painful period and may last a varied length of time. After the resting phase, a resorptive phase begins–this is the most painful phase of calcific tendonitis. During this resorptive phase, the calcium deposit looks something like toothpaste.
- Postcalcific Stage
This is usually a painless stage as the calcium deposit disappears and is replaced by more normal appearing rotator cuff tendon.