ACA and APTA Collaborate on Dry Needling Code
Written by Editor   
Sunday, October 28, 2018 10:05 PM

Following a successful nine-year collaboration between the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a new CPT® code for dry needling will likely be available to providers sometime in 2019.  Possibly placing the procedure undre the surgical section of the CPT.

ACA and APTA representatives appeared in September in Boston before the American Medical Association (AMA) CPT Panel, where they together presented an application for the dry needling code that was eventually accepted. Their partnership was formed in 2009, when representatives to the CPT panel for both groups agreed that a dry needling code describing a widely used procedure was needed to enable chiropractors and physical therapists to more accurately describe their services. 

In addition to potentially improving reimbursement for dry needling, the new CPT code will enable the healthcare industry to better examine the overall utilization of dry needling and its associated outcomes by collecting data via the code. 

Some in the acupuncture profession initially opposed the ACA/APTA proposal because they believe dry needling is essentially acupuncture by a different name.  However, while dry needling, like acupuncture, involves placing needles underneath the skin, there are differences between the two approaches. According to the ACA Council on Chiropractic Acupuncture’s position statement on the topic, “Dry needling involves the use of solid needles to treat muscle pain by stimulating and breaking muscular knots and bands. Unlike traditional trigger point injections, dry needling does not use any type of anesthetic.”

Meanwhile, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.”

On the day of the hearing before the AMA CPT panel, two proposals were presented: one – submitted by ACA and APTA – placed dry needling under the CPT Physical Medicine category (describing the procedure as a non-time-based code), and the other – supported by outside acupuncture groups–placed Trigger Point Acupuncture under the Acupuncture category (acupuncture is a time-based code). 

The AMA panel recognized the applications were very similar and asked all three groups, with the help of a facilitator, to come back the next day with a compromise. That night, a third option was drafted that placed dry needling under the Surgery codes, as non-time based, and cross referenced it under the Physical Medicine and Acupuncture sections so coders would find it.