What is it?
The rotator cuff refers to a group of four small muscles which run from the shoulder blade to the top of the
arm bone. They support and move the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff muscles attach to the arm bone by
tendons. Calcific tendinopathy refers to the laying down of calcium deposits within one or more of these
How does it happen?
The cause of calcific tendinopathy is not clear. However, it may result from overuse or injury to a rotator cuff
tendon. The most commonly involved tendon is that of the supraspinatus muscle. This muscle helps to
raise the arm into the air. Its tendon passes through a small space between the top of the arm bone and the
point of the shoulder. In this space the tendon is susceptible to ‘wear and tear’. Repetitive use of the
supraspinatus muscle and, therefore, the supraspinatus tendon can rub the tendon against the edges of the
bony space. This can stimulate the laying down of calcium deposits within the tendon and also cause
inflammation or swelling of the tendon.
How does it feel?
Calcific tendinopathy results in pain felt in the upper arm and over the shoulder. This pain is often intense
such that it feels like a toothache-like pain in the shoulder. It is often present when the arm is at rest and
made worse by movement of the arm.
What should you do?
Calcific tendinopathy often does not get better if it is not treated. Therefore, if you have or suspect you have
calcific tendinopathy you should consult your nearest sports medicine professional.
What shouldn’t you do?
If you have or suspect you have calcific tendinopathy, you shouldn’t ignore the problem. This may lead to
your injury getting worse. If this occurs your recovery may be prolonged.
Could there be any long-term effects?
Calcific tendinopathy does not usually produce any long-term effects as long as it is properly diagnosed and
appropriately treated. If not, it can lead to prolonged pain in the upper arm and a prolonged lay-off from
participation. In some situations, this may occur despite appropriate treatment. In these cases, surgery may
be required to remove the calcium deposits and to alleviate your pain.
The assistance of a sports medicine professional is important in the treatment of calcific tendinopathy.
Initially, they can assist in diagnosing the problem and its severity. This may require the use of imaging
techniques such as an X-ray or MRI. From this, the sports medicine professional will be able to determine
an appropriate treatment plan. This may involve activity modification, the taking of anti-inflammatory
medications and, in some cases surgery to repair the affected tendon.