Thanks to the APA Board for the timely and well crafted reply to the recent feature on dry needling by a physical therapist. Publicity for illegal activity cannot go unchallenged. This issue is not going away and the APA represents all Acupuncturists in the State. Time to become a member and support your professional organization in its efforts to help and protect your practice!
The APA has an official position on Dry Needling. So that all may have access to it, I'm pasting it here.
Association for Professional Acupuncture in Pennsylvania (APA)
Position Statement on Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) and
Intramuscular Manual Therapy (IMT)
1. Pennsylvania Medical Code defines acupuncture as: “The stimulation of certain
points on or near the surface of the body by the insertion of needles to prevent or
alleviate the perception of pain or to normalize physiological functions, including pain
control, for the treatment of certain diseases or dysfunctions of the body.” It goes on
to say that the term also includes the use of supplemental techniques, which are
defined as: “The use of traditional and modern Oriental therapeutics, heat therapy,
moxibustion, electrical and low level laser stimulation, acupressure and other forms of
massage, and counseling that includes the therapeutic use of foods and supplements
and lifestyle modifications.”
2. Acupuncture as a field of practice is defined by the study of how the various
acupuncture techniques can be applied to health and wellness.
3. Trigger Point Dry Needling and Intramuscular Manual Therapy are by definition
4. Trigger Point Dry Needling and Intramuscular Manual Therapy are by definition
included in the Field of Acupuncture as a field of practice.
The APA endorses the educational standards set for the practice of Acupuncture by the
Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), which is
recognized by the United States Department of Education.
The APA endorses the certification standards set forth by the National Certification
Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), which is recognized by
the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE)’s National Commission on Certifying
Recently, it has come to the attention of the APA that regulatory boards in other
states have started to recognize Acupuncture by other names, such as “dry needling”
and “trigger point dry needling.” Forty-four (six pending) states plus the District of
Columbia have already defined Acupuncture by statute, and most have defined the
educational and certification standards required for licensure. Current medical literature
is consistent with the definitions of Acupuncture provided by the state practice acts and
by the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine(AAAOM), which
clearly identify “dry needlling” as Acupuncture.Trigger Point Dry Needling and Intramuscular Manual Therapy are re-titlings and
re-packagings of a subset of the acupuncture techniques described in the Field of
Acupuncture as “ashi point needling.” A reasonable English translation of ashi points is
“trigger points,” a term used by Dr. Janet Travell in her landmark 1983 book Myofascial
Pain Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Dorsher et. al.,determined that of he 255
trigger points listed by Travell and Simons, 234 (92%) had anatomic correspondence
with classical, miscellaneous, or new Acupuncture points listed in Deadman et al.
Other authorities describe dry needling as Acupuncture. Mark Seem discussed
dry needling in A New American Acupuncture in 1993. Matt Callison describes dry
needling in his Motor Points Index as does Whitfield Reaves in The Acupuncture
Handbook of Sports Injuries and Pain: A Four Step Approach to Treatment. Yun-tao
Ma, author of Biomedical Acupuncture for Sports and Trauma Rehabilitation Dry
Needling Techniques, describes dry needling as Acupuncture and provides a rich
historical explanation. Chan Gunn sought to create language more readily accepted in
the West in a 1980 article. These examples make it clear that there is a literary
tradition in the Field of Acupuncture that uses the term “dry needling” as a synonym for
a specific, previously established Acupuncture technique.
The Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association recently appealed to the
Physical Therapy Board to explore Dry Needling being put in their scope of practice
through regulation. While the Physical Therapy Board is (so far) of the opinion that Dry
Needling is not in their scope of practice, there is enough national momentum on this
issue for the APA to express the following concerns:
1) No standards of education have been validly determined to assure that Physical
Therapists using TDN are providing the public with a safe and effective treatment;
2) There is a clear effort to redefine identical medical procedures as different, and
thereby circumvent or obscure established rules and regulations regarding practice;
3) In many states, addition of TDN to PT practice is a scope expansion that should
require legislative process, not a determination by a PT Board.
The U.S. Department of Education recognizes ACAOM as the sole accrediting
agency for Acupuncture training institutions. Training in Acupuncture, which has been
rigorously refined over the course of hundreds of years internationally and forty years
domestically, is well established and designed to support safe and effective practice.
Attempts to circumvent Acupuncture training standards, licensing or regulatory laws by
administratively retitling acupuncture as “dry needling” or any other name is confusing to
the public, misleading and creates a significant endangerment to public welfare. It
seems to imply that while one professional group is required to demonstrate excellence
and prove on-going competence in this field, another group can effectively do whatever
In conclusion, the APA strongly urges legislators, advisory boards, advocates of
public safety, and medical professional associations to carefully consider the impact of
actions in this regard.
© Association for Professional Acupuncture
P.O. Box 1081, Glenside, PA 19038