We carried out a prospective, randomised controlled trial on two groups of 40 patients with painful calcific tendonitis and a mean age of 48.4 years (32.5 to 67.3). All were to undergo arthroscopic removal of the calcific deposit within six months after randomisation. The 40 patients in group I received ultrasound-guided needling followed by high-energy shock-wave therapy and the 40 in group II had shock-wave therapy alone. In both groups one treatment consisting of 2500 impulses of shock waves with an energy flux density of 0.36 mJ/mm(2) was applied. The clinical and radiological outcome was assessed using the 100-point Constant shoulder scoring system and standardised radiographs. The mean follow-up was 4.1 months and no patient was lost to follow-up. Both groups had significant improvement in their Constant shoulder score. Radiographs showed disappearance of the calcific deposit in 60.0% of the shoulders in group I and in 32.5% of group II (p < 0.05). Significantly better clinical and radiological results were obtained in group I than in group II. Arthroscopic removal of the deposit was avoided in 32 patients of group I and in 22 of group II. No severe side-effects were recorded.Ultrasound-guided needling in combination with high-energy shock-wave therapy is more effective than shock-wave therapy alone in patients with symptomatic calcific tendonitis, giving significantly higher rates of elimination of the calcium deposits, better clinical results and reduction in the need for surgery.