NC Court Upholds Ruling That Dry Needling Is Distinct From Acupuncture

Aug 9, 2017

Dry needling is within the practice of physical therapy. That’s what a ruling from the North Carolina Business court concluded.

The decision issued last week affirms a ruling by the state Board of Physical Therapy Examiners that dry needling is distinct from acupuncture because it isn’t based on Chinese medicine and is used to treat different ailments.

A patient receiving dry needling to his calf.
Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE

The ruling also confirmed that dry needling is within physical therapists scope of practice. Acupuncturists disagree. They don’t consider the procedure any different from what they do, so the acupuncture board went to court.

Meanwhile, a handful of physical therapists have sued the acupuncture board in federal court, accusing them of violating anti-trust laws. That suit stems from three years ago, when the acupuncture board sent cease-desist-letters to several physical therapists requiring them to stop preforming dry needling. The board accused them of illegally practicing acupuncture without a license. That suit has been on hold pending the outcome of the state case. The Acupuncture board hasn’t yet decided whether it will appeal the decision.