There can be many reasons for this type of shoulder pain. One common cause is calcific tendinitis. This condition happens when a lump of calcium forms on one of the tendons in the shoulder area. Besides pain from lifting the arm above the shoulder, it can also be painful to lie on that shoulder. The pain can disrupt sleep and activities.
If you see your orthopedic doctor with these symptoms, he or she will perform a thorough physical examination of the shoulder and talk with you about previous injuries or strains to your shoulder and about your physical habits and athletic activities. It's also likely that your doctor will take x-ray and MRI images, both of which can show calcific deposits.
The body concentrates calcium in the wrong place for a few different reasons, and researchers haven't pinpointed any single reason for calcific tendinitis. Not surprisingly, without a definitive cause, there is also no single treatment that will work for everyone. Some people respond to a temporary reduced-calcium diet. Others find relief with sound-wave therapy. Still others may do well with medications and physical therapy. This treatment program can lessen inflammation and improve the biomechanics of shoulder movement. The calcium lump stays but the pain may be reduced or eliminated.
The most successful treatment for most people with calcific tendinitis who do not respond to the conservative therapies above is slightly more invasive. An orthopedic doctor anesthetizes the area and inserts an ultrasound-guided needle to poke holes in the deposit. As the calcium breaks up, the doctor aspirates it from the deposit area. Some studies have shown that 75% of patients are significantly helped with this procedure.