Calcium Deposits

Calcium deposits are a relatively uncommon finding around the shoulder. However, when present, they can cause fairly severe pain with shoulder activity. When calcium deposits form in the tendons of the shoulder joint, it is called calcific tendonitis.

What is the cause of calcium deposits around the shoulder?

In most situations, there is no known cause for calcium deposits. Many people ask if their diet should be changed to reduce calcium intake. The answer is no. Dietary intake of calcium has no bearing on calcium deposition. Remember, a normal balanced diet along with a calcium supplement of up to 1300 mg a day and 600 IU of vitamin D is considered healthy, particularly senior citizens and post-menopausal females.

Who most commonly gets calcium deposits?

Calcium deposits occur most frequently in females between 35 and 65 years of age, but they may occur in any gender and age group.

Do all calcium deposits cause problems?

Many calcium deposits do not cause any symptoms. Larger deposits may cause pain from mechanical impingement when the shoulder is elevated. Sometimes smaller deposits may also cause pain if they form within the rotator cuff tendon.

Is the calcium deposit hard like a rock?

Early calcium deposits are actually soft, much like the consistency of toothpaste. However, if the deposit is present for a long period of time, they can become chalk-like and sometimes even become ossified, or the consistency of bone.

What is the best treatment for a calcium deposit?

When a calcium deposit becomes acutely inflamed the symptoms can be quite severe. The acute inflammation can be treated with localized ice packs and rest in a sling, and oral anti-inflammatory medications are also helpful. A cortisone injection directly into the area of the calcium deposit may give relief within a few hours.

Do calcium deposits need removal?

If a patient has two or three recurrent episodes of painful symptoms in the shoulder felt to be due to calcium deposits, it may be appropriate to consider arthroscopic surgery to remove the deposits.

What is involved in arthroscopic surgery to remove calcium deposits?

The surgery is done in the outpatient department under general anesthesia. Often, the calcium deposit erodes a hole in the rotator cuff tendons. With arthroscopic surgery, the deposit can be removed and the rotator cuff tendon can be repaired.

Will calcification return once it is removed?

Only rarely will the calcification return in the same shoulder once it has been removed.