This painful condition occurs when calcium deposits form in tendons of the rotator cuff. These tendons and surrounding tissues in the shoulder become inflamed. Reactive calcification often develops in young people, but it can affect people of all ages.

The exact cause of reactive calcification is not known, but the process is a progression. Once the process it triggered (for reasons that are unclear), calcium crystals begin to form and collect within the tissues of a tendon. This usually is not painful, and most people don’t realize the deposits are forming. Eventually, the calcification process will stop, and the calcium deposits will begin to break down and be reabsorbed by the body. It is during the reabsorption phase that many people feel pain.

Symptoms of reactive calcification may include moderate to severe pain, especially when the arm is lifted. Other symptoms may include stiffness or restriction of shoulder movement, swelling in the joint, and pain at night that disrupts sleep.

Treatment options may include anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy. In many cases, treatment is not needed because symptoms improve on their own. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to break up and remove the deposits.