Treating Shoulder Pain with Needle Aspiration

Almost three-quarters of patients experiencing shoulder pain from calcific tendonitis—calcium buildup in the rotator cuff tendon—were completely symptom-free six months after needle aspiration treatment, according to a study of 431 patients published in April 2016 in the European Journal of Radiology.

For the study, which the authors claim is the largest on the subject so far, patients rated their pain on an 11-point scale before and two weeks after treatment.

A third of the patients required multiple procedures, which were provided at least six weeks apart. At the six-month mark, all patients reported whether their symptoms persisted or if they were symptom-free.

After two weeks, patients noted a significant improvement in pain, with a drop of 4.4 points, down from 7.5, the mean score before treatment. A large majority, 74 percent, reported complete relief of symptoms after six months.

Patients who required multiple treatments found that the second and third procedures were about equally as effective as the first.

However, complications from the procedure did occur in approximately 7 percent of the patients. These included subacromial bursitis, frozen shoulder, and septic bursitis.

These findings suggest that needle aspiration is safe and effective for a majority of people with calcific tendonitis of the rotator cuff, although multiple treatments may be required. If you have confirmed calcific deposits in a rotator cuff and you cannot achieve pain relief with conservative treatments, talk to your doctor about needle aspiration.