Why choose an acupuncturist .  .  .

. . . instead of getting needled by a physical therapist, chiropractor, or medical doctor?*

The number one reason is safety, and number two is long-term outcome.  Both depend upon training.  Under-trained people have caused serious injury, such as puncturing a lung.

Physical therapists are doing “dry needling” after 58 hours of training — three weekend workshops!  Results don’t last, and safety is a concern.  Medical doctors and chiropractors also get temporary relief of pain with acupuncture, which is good, but without theory of Chinese medicine, cannot remove the underlying causes of the condition, for lasting relief, and cannot use acupuncture to treat the full range of human ailments.  Pain is a very small part of our scope of practice.

Hours of Acupuncture Training
↓ type of training ↓ acupuncturist medical doctor chiropractor physical therapist
(“dry needling”)
theory of
Chinese medicine
600 01 01 0
point location, safety,
clinical skills
600 200-300 100-200 582
supervised acupuncture internship 6003 0 0 0
continuing education
each two years
40 0 0 0
* I know a few chiropractors, physical therapists, and medical doctors who completed four years of acupuncture school so they could really understand the medicine.  Bravo.

1 But in general, if medical doctors and chiropractors get a cursory introduction to Chinese medicine, it is included in the total hours listed above. That means fewer hours of training in point location, safety, and needling skills.

2 Do you really want someone needling you with only 58 hours of training?

3 Only the licensed acupuncturist has 600 hours of clinical internship, treating actual patients with acupuncture for all kinds of health problems, under supervision by experienced practitioners.

Acupuncturists also receive 600 hours of training in biomedicine (anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, palpatory anatomy, physical examination & history-taking, drug actions), not included in the table above, since the other professions are also trained in these areas, and the table focuses on acupuncture training.

In North Carolina now, physical therapists who do “dry needling” of trigger points are practicing acupuncture without a license, illegally, as determined by the North Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board and the Rules Committee of the state legislature, in consultation with the Attorney General.

Studies have shown that a series of dry needling treatments as done by physical therapists brings at most 1-3 months of relief.  After that, the trigger points typically return in the same places.  This is because dry needling by itself is an incomplete form of acupuncture treatment.

Chinese medicine has been using “dry needling” for thousands of years, but in the context of a larger treatment strategy that removes the underlying causes of the condition, to bring lasting relief.  The literature of Chinese medicine is full of warnings about incomplete and incorrect treatment harming the patient.

© 2016 Kim Bonsteel