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Shoulder News

Shocking the Shoulder Back to Health

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) has been used for kidney stones, heel pain, and other ailments. It has recently been used for calcific tendonitis of the shoulder. In this condition, calcium deposits form within the shoulder. No one knows exactly why the calcium deposits form, but they can cause pain and limit movement in the shoulder. No one knows exactly why ESWT seems to work, either. The theory is that it breaks up the calcium deposits and promotes healing in the tendons.

These doctors in Taiwan had already done research showing that ESWT was an effective treatment for calcific tendonitis of the shoulder. In this study, they compared ESWT to transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS), a treatment used for pain.

Patients with calcific tendonitis of the shoulder were divided into two groups. One group had two ESWT sessions, two weeks apart. The other group had TENS treatments three times a week for four weeks. Shoulder pain and function were rated before treatment and again at two, four, and 12 weeks. Special imaging tests were also done to measure the calcium deposits.

Both groups got better with treatment. However, the ESWT group had better shoulder range of motion and less pain, and their results held up better at 12 weeks. The calcium deposits in the ESWT group also shrank more. The authors found that ESWT was especially helpful in breaking up calcium deposits that form in the shape of an arc.

The authors conclude that ESWT is a much better treatment than TENS for calcific tendonitis of the shoulder. They feel that ESWT is also more effective than other treatments, including steroid injections, ultrasound, and surgery.


Po-Jung Pan, MD, et al. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy for Chronic Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulders: A Functional and Sonographic Study. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. July 2003. Vol. 84. No. 7. Pp. 988-993.

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