ALJ Pokes Hole In ‘Dry Needling’ Rule
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, February 05, 2019 01:05 PM

Florida physical therapists cannot offer “dry needling” procedures to their patients, a state judge ruled in a legal challenge filed by a group representing acupuncturists. 

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an order rejecting a proposed rule by the Florida Board of Physical Therapy that set minimum standards for physical therapists to use dry needling. The ALJ said the proposal exceeded the Board of Physical Therapy’s “grant of rulemaking authority because it would expand the scope of physical therapy practice, not merely establish a standard of practice.”

Dry needling is the name physical therapists use to describe a technique of inserting filiform needles into the skin at various “trigger points,” which causes certain responses. Filiform needles --- which are used for acupuncture --- are solid. They cannot be used to inject substances or medicine, hence the word “dry.”

Physical therapists in more than 30 states practice dry needling, but it is not authorized by law in Florida.

The proposed rule called for allowing physical therapists to perform dry-needle techniques so long as they had taken courses recognized by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, the American Physical Therapy Association, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy or any branch of the United States Armed Forces.

The Florida State Oriental Medical Association, which represents acupuncturists, challenged the proposed rule in the state Division of Administrative Hearings arguing, among other things, that the proposal modified existing law and that it was vague and capricious.

The ALJ agreed with the Florida State Oriental Medical Association that the Board of Physical Therapy expanded state law by passing the rule, noting that “dry needling meets the definition of acupuncture in Florida law because it involves the insertion of acupuncture needles” into specific areas of the body.