Dry-Needling: What Is It?

In early June, I attended the annual convention of the Acupuncture Association of Missouri. Each year, we meet to conduct annual business, study and discuss the art and science of acupuncture, and just have a good time. In addition to being elected to my fifth term on the Executive Committee, I had the pleasure of relaxing with colleagues whom I rarely see and learning about the latest research on nutrition and the treatment of infertility.
The Association’s legislative concern at present is the use of acupuncture needles by non-acupuncturists.  Dry-needling is the name given by physical therapists to their own use of acupuncture needles to treat trigger points.  (“Dry” refers to the solid nature of the acupuncture needle, as opposed to a hypodermic which is used to extract blood or inject medicine). Because it is illegal for physical therapists to practice acupuncture without a license the name “dry-needling” is applied to this acupuncture technique.  Pneumothorax, or the puncturing of lungs, can result from unskilled needling and has resulted from needling by those who are not trained in acupuncture.  This is one of the safety issues that make dry-needling unsafe.
Oregon is one state where acupuncture has been protected as a practice to be performed exclusively by licensed acupuncturists.  Many other states, however, have been unsuccessful in preserving acupuncture for those who have been trained in effective and safe needling.  We hope Missouri will follow suit should dry-needling be pursued by non-acupuncturists in this state.