The efficacy of a variety of noninvasive, conservative management techniques for calcific tendinopathy has been investigated and established for improving pain and function and/or facilitating a decrease in the size or presence of calcium deposits. Surprisingly, few have reported on the use of traditional therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation alone in the management of this condition, given the often spontaneous resorptive nature of calcium deposits. The purpose of this case is to present the results of a conservative approach, including therapeutic exercise, for the management of calcific tendinopathy of the supraspinatus, with an emphasis on patient outcomes.
The patient was a self-referred 41-y-old man with complaints of acute right-shoulder pain and difficulty sleeping. Imaging studies revealed liquefied calcium deposits in the right supraspinatus. The patient reported constant pain at rest (9/10) and tenderness in the area of the greater tuberosity. He exhibited a decrease in all shoulder motions and had reduced strength. The simple shoulder test (SST) revealed limited function (0/12). Conservative management included superficial modalities and medication for pain and a regimen of scapulothoracic and glenohumeral range-of-motion (ROM) and strengthening exercises.
At discharge, pain levels decreased to 0/10 and SST scores increased to 12/12. ROM was full in all planes, and resisted motion was strong and pain free. The patient was able to engage in endurance activities and continue practicing as a health care provider.
The outcomes with respect to pain, function, and patient satisfaction provide evidence to support the use of conservative therapeutic interventions when managing patients with acute cases of calcific tendinopathy. Successful management of calcific tendinopathy requires attention to outcomes and an understanding of the pathophysiology, prognostic factors, and physical interventions based on the current stage of the calcium deposits and the patient’s status in the healing continuum.