A group of acupuncturists in North Carolina are headed to court to contest the practice of “dry needling” by physical therapists.
One of the biggest misconceptions about acupuncture is that it’s neither safe nor proven to be effective; in reality, acupuncturists must have a license in order to practice — which requires hundreds of hours of training. Additionally, all of the needles used in an acupuncture session must be FDA-approved.
Over 3,000 physicians in the U.S. integrate acupuncture into patient treatment plans, often in conjunction with other drug and physical therapies. The World Health Organization (WHO) even endorses acupuncture for the treatment of approximately two dozen different medical conditions.
It’s this renowned status that has the N.C. Acupuncture Licensing Board upset about the practice of “dry needling.” Dry needling is similar to acupuncture because it involves the insertion of sterile filliform needles into specific pressure points, according to Delaware Online, to aid in the healing process of injured muscles.
But the practice of dry needling isn’t as regulated as traditional acupuncture, and this is exactly why the N.C. Acupuncture Licensing Board isn’t too fond of the practice.
As the Washington Post explained, many medical professionals are allowed to practice dry needling because the American Physical Therapy Association doesn’t really have an official position on the practice. Physical therapists are allowed to conduct these sessions, but so are trained doctors, nurses, and chiropractors.
The problem, according to the N.C. Acupuncture Licensing Board, is that these medical professionals don’t have much training; regardless of whether dry needling is (or should be) defined as a subset of acupuncture, the current way it is practiced in the U.S. is putting patients at risk.
As Mountain Express reported, the N.C. Physical Therapy Board requires 54 hours of training for a medical professional to receive a dry needling license. Acupuncturists, on the other hand, must complete a three-year postgraduate licensing program, which includes at least 1,800 hours of training.
The N.C. Acupuncture Licensing Board filed a lawsuit just last month in Wake County, asking the court to place a permanent injunction against dry needling practices throughout the state.