The New York Physical Therapy Association advocates the use of dry needling by physical therapists in the state. The Association has spent the last several years developing a plan of action and the State Board for Physical Therapy agreed with the association’s belief that physical therapists should be able to perform dry needling with appropriate training. When the State Board for Physical Therapy requested a meeting with the Acupuncture Board, it was denied. The Acupuncture Board for New York State continues to oppose the use of dry needling by undertrained physical therapists.
What is considered “appropriate training” for dry needling often consists of weekend crash courses. In an effort to circumvent the stringent requirements for obtaining an acupuncture license, physical therapists often claim dry needling is not acupuncture. The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine released a statement in the past that read, “The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Blue Ribbon Panel on Inter-professional Standards has determined that dry needling and any of its alternative designations, including intramuscular manual therapy, trigger point needling, functional dry needling, intramuscular stimulation or any other method by which a needle is inserted to effect therapeutic change, is, by definition, the practice of acupuncture.”
During a dry needling treatment, acupuncture needles are inserted into myofascial trigger points to remedy muscle pain and impaired movement. When performed by someone with limited training, the practice can be extremely dangerous and has been linked to occurrences of pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung.
The state of New York requires a minimum of 4,050 hours of classroom study at an approved professional acupuncture program registered by the New York State Education Department, supervised clinical experience, and out-of-the-classroom study assignments. Because an individual is a fully qualified physical therapist, does not mean that they have any experience or knowledge of the intricacies of traditional Chinese medicine. The two are entirely different fields of medicine.
Thankfully, the New York Physical Therapy Association has decided that it will not continue to push for dry needling at this time. Though the association hopes to address the issue again in the future, it’s aware the mission will be met with resistance.
Considering more than half of the practitioners offering acupuncture are inadequately trained and not licensed, it’s important for potential patients to seek out a licensed, experienced acupuncturist. This will ensure the patient’s safety, while also allowing them to experience the most effective treatments.