Periarthritis is a type of arthritis that causes pain and stiffness in a single joint. The condition most often affects the shoulders, but it can affect any joints. Symptoms occur when calcium crystals build up around the joint, resulting in inflammation.

This type of arthritis is temporary and normally resolves in about 3 years. Treatment can help manage pain for the duration of the condition.

Keep reading to learn more about periarthritis, includng symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Periarthritis, also called calcific periarthritis, is a painful condition that occurs when calcium crystals build around your joints or in the soft tissues surrounding the joint. This can cause pain and swelling. The joints may also feel thick and stiff, or “frozen.”

Calcium crystals are naturally found in your body. You need them to build strong teeth and bones. However, excessive calcium crystals can build up around tendons and joints.

The crystals can rub against the tendons and muscles and lead to pain and swelling. This is what leads to periarthritis. This condition is most common in the shoulder joint, but it can affect your hips, hands, and other joints, as well.

The primary symptoms of periarthritis are pain, swelling, and stiffness of the affected joint. Symptoms can come on suddenly and might be severe in some cases. Other symptoms might include:

  • tenderness in the affected joint
  • pain that makes it difficult to move the affected joint or limb
  • pain that is worse when you move the affected joint
  • pain that gets worse at night
  • pain that makes it difficult to sleep
  • a reduced range of motion (movement of the joint causes stiffness or severe pain)

Periarthritis is a common condition. It’s the result of too much calcium in the body, and it can happen to anyone, especially as your body ages. However, there are some factors that increase your risk of periarthritis. These include:

  • being between the ages of 40 and 65
  • being a woman
  • having an overactive parathyroid gland or any other thyroid condition
  • having a health condition that affects your kidney function
  • having diabetes
  • having any heart health condition
  • having Parkinson’s disease
  • having had a stroke
  • having had a recent injury to a joint or overusing a joint
  • having had a rotator cuff injury
  • having postsurgical scarring, especially in your shoulders
  • having taken certain medications
  • leading a sedentary lifestyle

A doctor will run several tests if they suspect that your pain and stiffness is caused by periarthritis. After a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms and medical history, you’ll likely have a series of tests, including:

  • imaging tests: Imaging tests such as X-rays and ultrasounds can help doctors look for calcium crystals around your joint and tendon.
  • blood work: Blood work can test for inflammation and for the amount of calcium in your blood. It can also help doctors rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

Periarthritis will resolve on its own without any treatment. The calcium crystal buildup normally lasts about 3 years before breaking up. However, during this time, periarthritis can be very painful.

Treatments can help you manage the pain until the condition resolves. The right treatment for you will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Common treatments for periarthritis are:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can help reduce the pain and inflammation in your affected joint. For mild pain, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs. If your pain is moderate or severe, your doctor might write you a prescription for stronger NSAIDs.
  • needle aspiration: Periarthritis can cause swelling in the bursa between your joints. Aspiration is a procedure that uses a needle to remove excess fluid from the bursa for quick relief of pain and swelling.
  • steroid injections: Steroid injections can help reduce pain and swelling. Your doctor can inject the steroid medication directly into the affected area.
  • surgery: Sometimes, surgery is done to remove very large calcium crystals that are causing severe pain or that are making movement difficult.
  • shockwave treatment: Shockwave treatment uses high-frequency shock waves to break up calcium crystals that are causing severe symptoms.
  • physical therapy: Physical therapy is an important treatment for joints that are stiff and painful. The goal is to stretch and strengthen the joint, reduce pain, and regain lost movement.

You can also take steps at home to help relieve the pain of periarthritis. Lifestyle steps are a great way to manage your condition between appointments and reduce your symptoms.

Your doctor might recommend lifestyle steps that are specific to the joint your periarthritis affects and the severity of your symptoms. Common lifestyle management steps include:

  • Try to stop smoking. Smoking can increase inflammation in your body. When you quit, you can reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Apply ice. Ice packs are a simple way to reduce swelling and relieve pain. You can use ice throughout the day to help manage your periarthritis.
  • Rest. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep as your body heals and recovers.
  • Exercise. Keeping your affected joint moving can help promote healing and prevent stiffness. Your doctor might order a few physical therapy sessions to help you learn exercises tailored to your periarthritis that you can do at home.
  • Manage your weight. Obesity is hard on your joints. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help you reduce pain.
  • Consider your diet. The amount of calcium you eat, or don’t eat, won’t impact periarthritis. However, there are foods that have been shown to reduce inflammation. Following an anti-inflammatory diet could help you reduce pain.

Can periarthritis be cured?

Periarthritis isn’t a chronic condition. It will go away in about 2 to 3 years, even without any treatment. However, treatment can help manage painful symptoms. And if symptoms are severe, certain medical treatments can help resolve periarthritis sooner.

What is acute calcific periarthritis?

Acute calcific periarthritis (ACP) is another term for periarthritis. Generally, ACP is used to describe periarthritis that comes on suddenly and is very painful.

What’s the difference between periarthritis and regular arthritis?

There are notable differences between periarthritis and regular arthritis. One of the primary differences is that periarthritis affects the area around a joint, while arthritis affects the joint itself.

Additionally, arthritis is a chronic condition that gets worse over time. Periarthritis is a temporary condition that resolves after a few years.

Can apple cider vinegar be used to treat calcium deposits?

There are many people who report that they’ve had success using apple cider vinegar to treat calcium deposits and treat periarthritis symptoms. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to back up this claim.

Apple cider vinegar does have several proven health benefits, but breaking down calcium deposits isn’t one of them.

Periarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when calcium crystals build up around joints and scrape against tendons. This leads to painful inflammation and stiffness.

Unlike standard arthritis, periarthritis isn’t chronic. The condition will resolve on its own in about 2 or 3 years. However, periarthritis can be very painful.

Treatments, such as NSAIDs, aspiration, and steroid injections, can help manage symptoms until periarthritis resolves.