The procedure is minimally invasive, nonsurgical and provides immediate pain relief from rotator cuff tendonitis.

A minimally invasive procedure to treat tendonitis in the rotator cuff provides immediate symptom relief, according to a study.

For some patients, their rotator cuff can accumulate calcium residue and be resistant to physical therapy.

“Calcific tendinopathy often resolves on its own but can become chronic,” says Jessalynn Adam, MD, who specializes in primary care sports medicine with OrthoVirginia.

“Often, a combination of physical therapy and shoulder injection with/without percutaneous needle tenotomy is sufficient treatment.

“The U.S.-guided procedure is effective but is uncomfortable. Patients are often sore following the procedure for a couple of days as well. However, there are good results.

“A study demonstrated that at one year, patients who underwent needling had more improvement than simple cortisone injection alone.

“Surgery is uncommon for this condition and only indicated for patients with refractory symptoms for six months or more (about 10% of cases).”

Another study found that ultrasound-guided nonsurgical therapy significantly reduces pain from calcific tendonitis of the rotator cuff and restores lasting mobility after treatment.

The treatment resulted in a single and inexpensive approach that was effective, says the study’s author, Luca M. Sconfienza, MD.

In severe cases, patients may require shockwave treatment or open surgery to remove the calcium.

Open surgery requires a hospital stay and rehabilitation and, on rare occasions, may result in major complications, such as tendon rupture.

How the Procedure Is Done

For the 20-minute procedure, the shoulder is anesthetized and, with ultrasound guidance, a radiologist injects a saline solution into the rotator cuff to wash the area and break up the calcium.

A second needle is used to aspirate, or withdraw, the calcium residue. Recovery time is about an hour.

Complete absence of the pain, following only a single procedure, is not guaranteed, but may be well worth it for chronic sufferers.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

• Pain in the upper side of the arm when lifting the arm straight out at one’s side

• Same pain when reaching overhead, especially with straight arms.

• Same pain when slipping the arm through the sleeve of a coat or jacket.

Dr. Adam specializes in the care of athletes and active individuals of all ages, offering prevention, diagnosis and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. Dr. Adam’s care focuses on muscle injuries and biomechanics. 
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
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