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Shockingly Good Results for Calcific Tendonitis of the Shoulder

Calcific tendonitis of the shoulder is not well understood. In this condition, calcium deposits form on the tendons around the shoulder. They can cause pain and loss of function. Treatments range from anti-inflammatory drugs to surgery, but there is no clear best treatment.

Shock wave therapy is a fairly new treatment for calcific tendonitis. It involves sending shock waves into the body. It has shown promise in treating other conditions. These doctors in Taiwan tested how well shock wave therapy worked for calcific tendonitis of the shoulder.

Shock wave therapy was done on 39 shoulders with calcific tendonitis. All patients got local anesthesia before treatment. About two-thirds of the patients felt discomfort at the site. Most patients got only one treatment, but some had two or three treatments. Follow-up was done over two to three years. The results were compared to a group of six patients who knew they were getting phony treatments. Their follow-up only lasted about six months because they went on to get other treatments.

Results looked good in the group who got shock wave therapy. About 62 percent had good or excellent outcomes six months after treatment. Better yet, about 91 percent had good or excellent outcomes two years after treatment. In almost 60 percent of the patients, X-rays showed that the calcium deposits had completely disappeared. In some patients this happened as early as two weeks after shock wave therapy. No calcium deposits came back after two years.

No one knows exactly why shock wave therapy works. These authors think it works by improving blood flow and tissue regrowth in the injured area. They recommend shock wave therapy as a safe and effective way to treat calcific tendonitis of the shoulder.


Ching-Jen Wang, MD, et al. Shock Wave Therapy for Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder: A Prospective Clinical Study with Two-Year Follow-up. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine May/June 2003. Vol. 31. No. 3. Pp. 425-430.

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