Calcific tendonitis is a painful condition where small calcium deposits form in tendons. As the calcium deposits migrate out of the tendon into the surrounding soft tissue or become irritated due to use, the calcification can cause local inflammation which leads to pain. At times this pain can be debilitatingly severe. However, it is also possible to have these calcifications in a tendon and have no symptoms.
Painful calcific tendonitis can occur in many areas. Some common sites are the shoulder, elbow, ankle, and hip area. While we don’t yet fully understand the mechanism for how these deposits occur, they tend to affect individuals who perform frequent and repeated activity. Activity that involves overhead motion like lifting and playing certain sports and even repetitive job tasks can contribute to this condition. Calcific tendonitis is also more common as we age and affects adults between the ages of 35 and 65.
These calcium deposits can commonly be seen on x-ray or ultrasound. If conservative measures like rest, medications, injections, and physical therapy do not provide relief, other treatment options include surgery to remove the calcium deposits.
Another minimally invasive, quick, and effective option is ultrasound guided needle lavage. Lavage means to wash out with fluid. Some calcifications are soft and some are hard like a small piece of concrete. Using ultrasound to visualize the calcium deposit, a needle can be guided into the deposit to lavage out the soft calcium deposit with fluid. If the calcification is hard, sometimes a needle can be used to break up the calcification in the office or using a special powered needle in the operating room
This needle-based procedure is much less invasive than surgery, requires no incision, minimizes risk of complications, has very little downtime, and individuals can resume full regular activity quickly, usually within 2-3 weeks.