Clarification of Physical Therapist Dry Needling and Acupuncture

I still hear patients tell me that their PT tells them dry needling is not acupuncture because acupuncturists don’t bother with medical diagnosis, we deal with “energy and qi” or we don’t understand the Western anatomy. I want to commend my fellow PT’s for their hard work and good knowledge but I would like to present some very salient points:

1. The medical diagnosis is very important. I know all of my patients’ medical diagnosis. COPD, fibromyalgia, etc. Although it is outside of my scope of practice to diagnose Western conditions, I am often the first to recognize a condition in a patient; ie yesterday a patient who has had years of foot pain due to a torn attachment of the peroneus longus at the base of the first metatarsal (no one else had diagnosed this, including a podiatrist).

2. I am trained in medical examination from a physical therapy standpoint. My acupuncture school employed two physical therapists, who trained us for three years in testing and recognizing musculoskeletal conditions and their sequalea.

3. We place needles into channels that have been researched extensively by Western medicine. As well, we are trained in needling trigger points, motor points, and points based upon palpation.

4. We are trained extensively in anatomy, as it is extremely important to understand what is happening form both a Western standpoint and a Chinese medicine standpoint. Also, without proper understanding of anatomy, there is dire risk of puncturing underlying structures (lungs, organs, nerves, blood vessels).

5. Immediate change is often seen in treatment. I often palpate points and ask the patient to engage in ROM activities to see if the point affects the condition. If I needle trigger and motor points, I expect immediate change.

Please consider doing more research and talking to acupuncturists before attempting to portray us as inferior practitioners. We are highly skilled and trained, and consider a Western diagnosis and view of the body to be an important part of our practice.

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