Dry Needling

There is a big hub bub out there about what constitutes acupuncture, and who can practice acupuncture, and under what credentials. Apparently, there are continuing education classes for Chiropractors, Physical therapists, and Medical Doctors, that are usually weekend courses, just shy of 15 hours. The biggest proponent of dry needling is Dr. Yun Tao Ma, who has done extensive work in the University level, and for the NIH. The big stir is that this allows Physical Therapists take a weekend course and perform “dry needling” which some argue is a form of acupuncture on patients for pain relief. Most physical therapy can be covered by insurance, and is readily accepted by the medical profession. A majority of Orthopedics and the like, are quick to give out prescriptions for physical therapy, for pain management and recovery. However, it is rare that one would think of giving out a prescription for acupuncture.

Many people fear, that the training that is involved with the Continuing Education, is insufficient to what is a part of an acupuncturist’s training, and that the type of “needling” that is done is no where near to what an acupuncturist can accomplish. Dr. Ma, bases his type of needling on neuro-pathways and not at all on acupoints or meridians. So are they the same or are they different?

Many Acupuncturist are upset that Physical Therapist can claim they do acupuncture, or bill under acupuncture, when they have no certification for it or even formal training as an acupuncturist does.

There actually is an ordinance in Rhode Island, that states, that a person, who doesn’t have any licensing in acupuncture, cannot advertise services in acupuncture, for example in the case here, a Chiropractor or a Physical Therapist providing “acupuncture” services, when what they are really doing “dry needling”. Since not all states have regulations over acupuncture, most people are unaware of what acupuncture really is or what it is capable of. The majority of patient education lies in the practioner informing the client of what each session entails, and what it is he is actually doing, and what to expect out of each session. The general public is easily schemed as we have seen, various shams appearing in the media about fake “plastic” surgery, or bo-tox injections. If someone can convince someone into purchasing a “bo-tox” injection, without any credentials, then why not acupuncture after a two day seminar.

Are we to get angry and protest the actual courses where the training occurs? No, not really. We can get angry, and approach our professional regulations bureau, as well as our affiliations to put higher guidelines, and fight for something like what they have in Rhode Island. But to actually protest a training session coordinated by someone who has strong credentials and has “sold out” to another medical profession, I am not ready to get my liver qi all hyperactive. I have talked to Chiropractors who have had CEU courses in acupuncture or “dry needling”, and the majority say, they really have no need for it in their practice. Either they tried it on their patients as a novelty at first to obtain a result, either didn’t obtain the result they wanted, and returned to their previous methods in treating that particular pain. Some others, who have used it, and have gotten a result, use it to refer out to another acupuncturist. They usually stick to what they know works for them, and acupuncture just becomes a tool in their bag to use every once in a long while. The argument that some of the protesters have, is that they are worried that their lack of training may injure their patients. This is silly. Why are we to worry about someone else’s patient? Its their lack of training, and lack of skill, that may get them in a lawsuit, or increase their malpractice premium, and even most likely lose their client. Like, I said most Chiro’s that I’ve met that have had training usually say they’d rather let the acupuncturist do the difficult needling.

There are also many tools out there that we as acupuncturists do that may be considered out of our scope, that we also borrow from other professions, such as muscle testing, orthopedic tests, rehabilitative techniques, etc. Some of us, just take CEU, courses for those. We should think twice before we ruffle our feathers and point out these “dry needle” proponents, and see what good they are doing, like actually bringing us patients.


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Chicago native, Acupuncturist, Teacher, Student. and Lover. Dancing the Cosmic Boogie.

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