Restriction of Passive Glenohumeral Abduction Combined With Normal Passive External Rotation Is a Diagnostic Feature of Calcific Tendinitis

Orthop J Sports Med. 2018 Feb 6;6(2):2325967117752907. doi: 10.1177/2325967117752907. eCollection 2018 Feb.


Background: Passive glenohumeral range of motion may be characteristically limited to specific shoulder pathologies. While pain associated with loss of range of passive external glenohumeral rotation is recognized as a salient feature in adhesive capsulitis, restriction of glenohumeral range of motion in calcific tendinitis of the supraspinatus tendon has never been studied.

Hypothesis: On the basis of clinical observation, we hypothesized that calcific tendinitis of the supraspinatus tendon is associated with loss of passive glenohumeral abduction without loss of external rotation.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Ranges of passive glenohumeral rotation and abduction, which are measured with a standardized protocol in our institution, were retrospectively reviewed and compared for patients diagnosed with either adhesive capsulitis or calcific tendinitis of the supraspinatus tendon. A total of 57 patients met the inclusion criteria for the calcific tendinitis, and 77 met the inclusion criteria for the adhesive capsulitis group.

Results: When compared with the contralateral, unaffected shoulder, glenohumeral abduction in the calcific tendinitis group was restricted by a median of 10° (interquartile range [IQR], -20° to -5°) as opposed to glenohumeral external rotation, which was not restricted at all (median, 0°; IQR, 0° to 0°). The adhesive capsulitis group showed a median restriction of glenohumeral abduction of 40° (IQR, -50° to -30°) and a median restriction of passive glenohumeral external rotation of 40° (IQR, -60° to -30°).

Conclusion: Calcific tendinitis of the supraspinatus does not typically cause loss of external rotation but is frequently associated with mild isolated restriction of abduction. This finding can be used to clinically differentiate adhesive capsulitis from calcific tendinitis.

Keywords: adhesive capsulitis; calcific tendinitis; frozen shoulder; glenohumeral abduction; glenohumeral external rotation; glenohumeral motion; shoulder pathologies.